Layered rice and lentils with goat’s cheese and herb sauce and crispy fennel

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Some dishes just appear out of nowhere, and are unconsciously inspired by other things. This is one of those. I had to cook lunch for 20 people and only had 40 minutes. It’s lovely on it’s own or would work well as an accompaniment for grilled chicken, or any meat or fish you might fancy.

Rice

200g long grain rice

2 bulbs of fennel

2 large white onions

200g ripe cherry tomatoes

Some black pepper, dried oregano, fresh thyme sprigs

100g of butter and some olive oil

Sea salt

 

Lentils

 

150g of speckled lentils (or other green lentils)

2 bay leaves

1 clove of garlic

1 small white onion

Olive oil

Aged red wine vinegar

Sea salt

 

Tomato Sauce

1 tin of tomatoes

1 clove of garlic

Olive oil

A sprig of rosemary

Some dried oregano

Sea salt and pepper

 

Goat’s cheese & herb sauce

200g of firm goat’s cheese

50g of Greek style yoghurt

A handful of each chopped parley, mint, coriander, tarragon

A splash of water

Olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

A splash of vinegar

 

Crispy Fennel

1 or 2 fennel bulbs

Plain flour

Sea salt

Vegetable oil for frying

 

To make the rice, put the butter and a small amount of olive oil in a heavy based saucepan. Finely chop the fennel and tomatoes and add them to the pan together with all the other rice ingredients. Cook gently for 10 minutes or until the fennel and tomatoes begin to soften. Add the rice to the pan and just cover with warm water. Stir and check for seasoning. Cover the rice with parchment paper and a lid. Lower the heat to a minimum and allow the rice to cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until it’s just ready. Turn the heat off and let it sit. By this time all the water should be absorbed and the rice cooked.

 

Place the lentils in another pan and cover with water. Add the bay leaves, garlic and onion, and cook over a medium heat for about 20 minutes.  Remove from the pan, drain and place in a bowl. Season with olive oil, vinegar and salt to taste.

 

To make the tomato sauce, heat some olive oil in a small pan and when hot but not smoking add the clove of garlic finely chopped followed by the tomatoes and all the other ingredients. Cook over medium to high heat for 20 minutes or until it becomes thick and sweet.

 

For the goat’s cheese and herb sauce, place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and adjust the seasoning according to your taste.

 

Finally, slice the fennel bulbs really thinly (ideally on a mandolin), place in a bowl and salt them generously. Let the fennel sit for 10 minutes and towards the end of this time, heat up some vegetable oil in a medium pan. Squeeze the fennel to remove excess water and toss in flour. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the fennel and fry until golden and crispy. Remove from the pan and place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.

Putting it all together!

Using a nice platter, place one layer of the rice on the bottom followed by some of the tomato sauce. Now add a thin layer of lentils  and some of the green sauce. Repeat this once more and finish the beautiful platter with the crispy fried fennel.