menu mind-reading


bbq chorizo with slow roasted tomatoes & braised lentils
Until recently, I’d forgotten about a game that my ex-husband and I used to play. Over the 11-odd years that we were together, we shared countless pleasurable meals across five continents, and as you can imagine came to know each other’s food preferences and peccadillos intimately. During this time we developed a kind of restaurant game where we’d both peruse the menu and then try and guess what the other was going to order.

From quite early on it was easy to predict what Nick would be ordering. I remember one of our first proper dates (pashing on the dance floor of the Baxter Ball doesn’t count) going to the Silver Spoon, a Thai restaurant on Oxford St that I think is now the site of a business called the ‘tool shed’ that doesn’t quite supply the same type of hard ware that you find at your local Bunnings. Anyway, I digress. We were both relative new comers to Thai cuisine at the time and I remember eyeing off the chicken with cashew nuts while Nick was quite intrigued with the jungle curry. Upon placing our order the waitress warned us that the jungle curry was very spicey which only encouraged Nick all the more.

When our meal arrived, we were sharing of course, there are no prizes for guessing which we finished and which was left only half eaten. But this didn’t deter either of us really and whenever there was something on the menu that mentioned chilli or spicey or better yet firery it was a safe bet that Nick would have his eye on it.

While I have always tried to mix things up a little more and am often drawn to ordering something if I haven’t tried it before which sometimes gets me into trouble (hello andouilettes and tripe), I didn’t entirely make the game too tricky for my little mate. The mere mention of beets, mushrooms, asparagus, polenta, duck or lentils would have me hooked, an easy target. Nick of course knew this and it was almost alarming how often we would guess each other correctly, particularly in the later years.

But like I said, I had forgotten about this whole game until the other day when I was emailing with my good friend Colette. We were sussing out arrangements for a girls dinner on my balcony when Col dropped in a casual by-the-way,

‘I was thinking of you the other day, I ordered a lentil and roast beetroot salad for lunch. And yes….it was yum’.

What can I say. Maybe there are more certainties in life than just death and taxes. Some girls will always go for the lentils…..all good things.

braised lentils
Adapted from Sky Gyngell’s A year in my kitchen.

As I’ve mentioned before, to me Puy lentils are the Rolls Royce of the world of pulses. While they are still expensive for lentils, I find that the Australian grown ones are just as good if not better than the French import. If you can’t get your hands on Puy style lentils, you could sub in regular large brown ones but as they tend to turn to mush in an instant so you’ll need to be vigilant during the cooking period.

Skye rates the small brown Castelluccio lentils from Umbria in Italy as her favourite. And while I haven’t come across these in Oz yet, I am also quite fond of the small red ‘Persian’ lentils grown by Mt Zero in Victoria and imagine they would work just as well in this dish.

There are a million and one uses for these lentils. Sprinkle over some crispy grilled proscuitto and marinated feta and you have and instant meal. Better yet toss through some roasted beets, toasted walnuts and a few handfuls of flat leaf parsley for a lunch of champions. Lentils are also delicious with a poached egg on top or as an accompaniment to roast or bbq meat or poultry. For a lighter, more summery feel toss cool lentils with dressed baby spinach leaves.  Or you can scatter them over an antipasto plate or anywhere that you’d think of scattering over nuts to add texture and substance.

500g small green French style (Puy) lentils
1 large onion, halved
1 large carrot, quartered
1 red chilli, split lengthwise
4 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic
2T tamari (wheat free soy sauce)
4T balsamic vinegar
6T extra virgin olive oil

Place lentils in a large saucepan with onion, carrot, chilli, thyme, parsley & garlic. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-25mins or until lentils are tender. Drain and place in a large bowl. Toss through tamari, vinegar and oil and season well adding additional vinegar if you feel it needs more punch. Will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. Best eaten at room temperature or warmer.

bbq chorizo with slow roasted tomatoes & braised lentils
serves 6

This is a great little meal for a casual Sunday evening family BBQ. You can prepare the lentils and tomatoes in advance and keep in the fridge, just remember to allow them to come back to room temp before serving. If you’re feeling more decadent you could BBQ some squid with the chorizo and serve on a bed of the lentils with lemon wedges and possibly a dollup of aioli. If you can’t source chorizo feel free to sub in some good quality pork sausages, preferably with a little chilli.

6-12* chorizo
24 slow roasted tomato halves at room temp, see HERE for recipe
3C braised lentils at room temp, recipe above
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked
2 large red chillis, seeded and finely diced, optional
green salad, to serve

Preheat BBQ on high. Combine lentils, tomatoes, coriander and chilli and allow to stand. BBQ chorizo, turning until cooked to your liking. Divide lentil mixture between 6 plates and top with hot chorizo. Serve with green salad passed separately.

*Note: If you’re feeding hungry carnivores allow 2 chorizo per person but more delicate types will be fine with just one sausage each.


  • Lovely post Jules, and funny, because as soon as I saw your photos on Flickr I went… oh ! Chorizo !, which I suppose means we are all somewhat predictable in our predilections :) I must admit that I’m always intrigued by the idea of lentils, but aside from great dhal, have never enjoyed them on their lonesome so much. Might have to try again.

  • Hey Clancy, you don’t like andouillette ? You surprise me. I had one in Vichy with a decent bottle of Chateauneuf that would have converted a vegetarian. Actually, that’s not quite true; Jana asked if she could move to another table. It does have quite a distinct odour, which has a tendency to follow the consumer for several hours afterwards, but that’s a good thing right. I enjoyed it anyway. Tripe and onions is a lunch time classic on these cold winter days. Bit of bacon on the side, and maybe a few lentils.

  • I love lentils, but somehow never get round to cooking them at home – don’t know why.

    My boyfriend is very predictable when it comes to ordering dessert. Always the chocolate. Unless there are two chocolate desserts on the menu, then it’s a bit of an agonising quandary.

    Toolshed used to be a Thai restaurant? Wow.

  • First of all, I would like to say that I am an avid follower of your blog! You’re an absolute inspiration to a young inspiring 17 year old guy from surburban Melbourne who loves to cook for his friends (Mind you, I equally enjoy the odd kick-to-kick with the sherwin). It’s only recently that taken on the challenge of starting to write down my famed recipes, and hope one day to start some sort of blog, or even write my own cookbook.

    Now why I’m replying to this topic. Whenever my best friend and me go out to eat, we play this exact game too! I usually get hers by looking straight to the prawns, or any other crustacean-related dish – and if it’s with pasta, it’s a dead hit. I, on the other hand, am a little more tricky. She says she likes to pick depending on my mood: chicken if I’m in a rut, red meat if there’re man troubles and pork if I’m spiteful. It’s also a good bet to pick anything roasted; with spinach; or in ball form.

    Dessert wise, use our mental twin powers (we’re born on the same day) to unanimously pick something to share.

  • (just browsing through!)

    i like making lentil sprouts with the plain ol’ brown lentils. you just soak them overnight, put them in a jar/whatever and cover it lightly while you’re out during the day. at night lightly swish the lentils with water in the jar, let it sit for maybe 5 minutes, drain again and do what you did the night before. within 2 or 3 days, the lentils will have sprouted. keep them in the fridge to stunt the growth. (you don’t want to eat them after the sprouts have gotten to be more than 1/2 inch long.) just rememebr to rinse them every night or else the water might start smelling funky.

    you can top a salad with these, or you can do what i do and pop handfulls into my mouth after i get home from work. (why fuss around, they’re going to end up in my belly anyway!) they’re a bit nutty and you can even taste how healthy they are for you, since the sprouting process has caused the little guys to release tons of healthy enzymes and whatnot.

  • hi there–wondering if you remove the veg from the lentils before stirring in the seasonings? i assume so, but just wanted to confirm since it’s not written in the recipe.

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