“But then the dark skin of night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us, glossy and colourful as a child’s transfer and tinged with the same sense of unreality.”
– from My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Pre-dawn on Monday morning T and I boarded our train home. I had no coffee, and T was yawning, but watching the sunrise unfold along the horizon from the window of a speeding train made up for all of it. The first lick of colour was an egg-yolk yellow fading up to green, silhouetting the trees in front a deep black. Ever so gradually the sky began to blush blue, until the fiery orange sun finally broke its banks. T’s excited yells woke all of the sleeping train passengers; such is the beauty of discovery as a child.
It was a short work trip, to a town I’m already familiar with, but as always, it reminded me of why I so love travel. The methods of travel themselves – trains, planes, bikes – have always evoked a special kind of joy for me. It’s the anticipation, of course, but it’s also the rhythm of the movement, the sense of being suspended between two places that allows you to take the moment into yourself, to read, or daydream, to let go. With distraction at our fingertips these days, those moments travelling between places are one of the few times I simply watch the world go by.
This Roasted Carrot, Cauliflower & Black Lentil Salad is a fantastic travel meal. It’s hearty and healthy, and stands up well to a morning in a container, or a few days in the fridge. It hits all the right notes – vegetables roasted to the point of sweetness, earthy grains and legumes, and an unexpected cinnamon twist to the dressing is perfect for these early autumn days.
Roasted Carrot, Cauliflower & Black Lentil Salad
This is a versatile dish, and holds up beautifully in the fridge for a few days. Depending on what you have in your pantry, you can sub in freekeh or brown rice for the barley, slivered almonds for the pine nuts, parsley for the mint, you get the idea!
1/2 cup black lentils
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 head cauliflower
15 small(ish) carrots
200 grams feta cheese
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup currants
Olive oil, to cook
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsps maple syrup or honey
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cardamom
Sea salt & ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 200°c/400°f.
Cut the cauliflower into medium-sized florets, and the carrots into chunky coins. Toss in a bowl with a generous glug of olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste. Spread in a single layer across a baking tray (or two) and cook in the oven for approx. 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are deeply roasted and starting to brown.
In the meantime, cook both the lentils and the barley on the stovetop. Put the lentils and barley in two separate pots, along with one and a half cups of cold water each. Cover and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 20 – 25 minutes. The lentils should be tender but not mushy, and the barley tender but still chewy. Drain both, and combine in a large bowl.
Prepare the dressing by whisking together the cinnamon, syrup, oil, vinegar, cumin seeds, coriander, and cumin. Add salt & pepper, to taste.
Pour about half of the dressing over the lentils & barley while they’re still warm and mix to thoroughly combine. Stir through the roasted vegetables, the chopped mint, the toasted pinenuts and the currants. Have a taste, and add more dressing as you like (I used the whole lot!). Before serving, use your fingers to crumble the feta over the top.
Serve warm or room temperature.