This salad is filling and tasty and, if all else fails, serves as a great, healthy appetiser for a meal of potato gems and champagne.
Turn your oven on to 180.
Start with a cup of Puy lentils – the small dark coloured ones that don't cook to mush unless you forget you're cooking them. Pick them over to remove any rocks and wash in a strainer. Put them in a pan with a couple of bay leaves and three cups of water. Bring to the boil. You can start testing to see if they're ready after about 15 minutes. You might have to add more water as they cook, but you're going to strain them so it won't matter.
Now chop a whole head of cauliflower into florets. You want them roughly the same size. Spread them onto baking trays lined with baking paper and season with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika. Give those little florets some room on the baking tray because you'll steam them to mush if they're squashed up against their friends. Put them into the hot oven for about fifteen to twenty minutes.
Next make some salad dressing. You probably have your own recipe but if not, here's a rough guide. Fill a clean, screw top jar one third full with the oil of your choice. Add salt, pepper and other flavours that you like. We quite often add French mustard and grated garlic but if you were going for an Asian theme you might add sesame oil and ginger. Next add something sweet – try honey or brown sugar, the ammount will depend on your tastes. We have a large supply of amazing, home-made mulberry jam so we often add a tablespoon of that to our dressing – it's amazing. Then slowly top the jar up with an acid of your choice. Try a mix of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Keep shaking your jar and tasting it till you get the ratio of oil to acid just right. This will keep in the fridge for quite a few days. We usually have two jars of different dressing on the go at once. You can add chopped herbs too, though they will go a bit manky so you'll have to eat it a bit faster. No hardship there.
Now chop a whole bag of baby spinach leaves into shreds. Spinach wilts down to almost nothing, so chop a whole lot more than you think you'll possibly need and/or be able to eat. Two people can easily eat a big bag of baby spinach in a salad without even trying.
When the lentils are cooked (tender and al dente but not mushy) drain them, discard the bay leaves and return to the still warm pan. Add the spinach and a generous ammount of salad dressing – four or five tablespoons, and taste. Place the cooked florets on top of the lentil mix and serve.