Now the weather is lovely, my thoughts turn to all those things I can make in advance to graze on over the weekend, or for weekday lunchboxes.  The colours of the lemon zest, herbs, carrots and red peppers stand out like jewels against the earthy tones of the lentils.  This makes a great main course alongside a large mixed salad and maybe sometimes starchy, like a steamed sliced sweet potato, or some quinoa anointed with pesto.  You could also use this as a starter, or instead of potatoes/rice with some grilled/roast white fish or chicken.   Good when trying to feed vegetarians and carnivores a the same meal!

For a quick weekday version of this classic French salad: Just cook the lentils and carrot with a bay leaf, drain and add a generous splash of balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil and lots of black pepper.  Good with large multicoloured mixed salad.

Serves 3 as a main course salad, 6 as a starter

200g/1 mugful Puy lentils
1 medium/large carrot, peeled and diced into 1/8”/0.5cm squares
½ a red (or white) onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
Lemon vinaigrette (see below) or a splash of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and lots of black pepper.
If you eat dairy: 50g goat/sheep feta, crumbled (optional)
2 teaspoons mint, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped parsley or coriander
Black pepper to taste
2 medium red peppers (optional i.e. if you are feeling fancy!)

1. Rinse the lentils, cover them generously with clean water and bring them to a boil with the garlic, carrot, onion and bay leaf.
2. Simmer until they are cooked (15-20 ins) but still hold their shape.
3. Drain the lentil mixture and save the liquid for making soups or gravies.
4. While the lentils are cooking prepare the red peppers (if using) by grilling under a hot grill until the skins are charred, then put them in a covered bowl to steam for 10 mins or so, then take off the charred skins with a knife.  Do not rinse them under water or the sweet juices will be lost.  Slit them open, remove the seeds, and cut into strips or squares.
5. While the lentils are still hot add the feta, vinaigrette, herbs and the red peppers and their juice, if they are ready.

For the Lemon vinaigrette:
Juice and peel of one lemon (ideally organic, or scrubbed very well)
1/2 level tsp paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ level teaspoon Himalayan or Atlantic sea salt (optional)
6-8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Remove two wide strips of peel from the lemon with a veg peeler and slice them into narrow slivers.
2. Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl or put in a screw top jar and shake well.

Why this is good for you:
Lentils are a great source of soluble fibre which feeds good bacteria to help your skin, digestion, mood and immunity.   Lentils are a good source of protein instead of meat or fish at a meal so will keep you full for ages.  Herbs and spices are antioxidant and help delay the visible signs of ageing (wrinkles, saggy skin, anyone?).  Red peppers and carrots are a good source of beta carotene, which helps give your skin a golden glow, even without the aid of the sun, according to British study of university students.   Another bonus of this salad is the raw extra virgin olive oil, which gives vitamin E to make your skin (and all your parts!) smooth and moisturised from within.