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This pan-seared salmon with lentils recipe is healthy, straight-forward and impressive looking to boot. The lentils are dressed in a wholegrain mustard dressing which is zesty and vibrant with freshly seared salmon rested on top.
The ingredients for this recipe are pretty simple, and likely things you may already have in. You simply need green lentils, a bay leaf, spinach, onion and garlic. The dressing is made from a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and wholegrain mustard.
There are a few substitutions you can make based on your personal preference (see below). Plus I’m always open for inspiration – drop me a comment below!
How to make it
First, you need to cook the lentils as they will take around 25-30 minutes depending on what variety you choose. Wash and then add to a pan with around 1-2 inches of water over the top. Pop in the bay leaf and place over A high heat. Start the timer when they start to boil. Don’t be tempted to salt the water as it can actually make the lentils tougher if you salt before they are cooked.
When the lentils have around 15 minutes of cooking time left then start on the rest of the meal. First pan sear the salmon (directions below) and then remove from the pan and rest on a plate covered with some foil.
Saute the onion for a few minutes until softened and then add the garlic for a further minute. Add the spinach to the pan and wilt by turning it every few seconds with some kitchen tongs.
Drain the lentils and add to the pan with the onion and spinach. and pour over the dressing and season well., stir or toss everything together so the dressing evenly coats the mixture. Spoon into the middle of a plate and add the cooked salmon on the top.
How do you pan-sear salmon?
Pan searing salmon is extremely easy although the idea of it is off putting to many. There are a few tips you can use which will help you get a beautifully cooked fillet every time:
- Dry the salmon off. Patting it down with some kitchen towel will help remove excess moisture. This will stop the salmon sticking to the pan and help the skin crisp up nicely.
- Season the salmon well with salt before adding it to the pan
- Make sure the pan is really hot before you add the salmon. If you add the salmon to a pan that is not hot enough it will also increase the chances of the skin sticking.
- Place the salmon skin side down into the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Immediately press down on the top of the fillet with a spatula for around 15 seconds. This will stop the salmon buckling (which will make it cook unevenly).
- Cook the salmon for around 5 minutes skin side down. You want it to cook around 90% of the way through before flipping it. If it seems like it’s burning on the bottom then reduce the heat a little.
- Flip the salmon and cook for a further minute on the flesh side. This should result in salmon that is seared well on the outside and a little pink in the middle. If you like your salmon done all the way through then cook for an additional 1-2 minutes on each side.
- If you’re not sure if the salmon is done you can use a kitchen thermometer. You should aim for 60 C / 140 F in the thickest part of the salmon.
What kind of lentils can you use?
There are so many different types of lentils. They are also called by slightly different names in different countries. For this recipe I use green lentil, you may also see them called ‘Lentilles Vertes’.
You can also use puy lentils which are darker and speckled, or you can use regular lentils which are also called brown lentils. I wouldn’t recommend red or yellow varieties as they tend to become ‘mushier’ which isn’t great for this recipe.
Whilst I’ve included timings for cooking below, it’s probably a good idea to also look at the package instructions to make sure you cook them appropriately for whatever variety you have.
Can you freeze it?
Yes and no. I wouldn’t recommend freezing cooked salmon as the taste and texture will be hugely sacrificed when you come to eat it. Freeze uncooked salmon and then cook it fresh when you want to serve.
The lentil mixture on the other hand will freeze well. After cooking cool the mix and then divide into individual freezer safe bags. Squeeze the air out of the bag before sealing and then freeze for up to 3 months.
You can also make the lentil mixture up to 3 days in advance and store.
Mustard – For this recipe you can substitute the wholegrain mustard with dijon for a smoother texture (although I think the mustard seeds in wholegrain add to the visual appeal of the dish too).
Lentils – while, as mentioned above, you can use green, puy or brown lentils for this dish, you can also use quinoa instead of lentils if you like.
Spinach – you could add rocket or even lambs leaf to the mixture instead of spinach. Just add it right at the end before serving as you won’t wilt it down as you would with the spinach.
Salmon – I’ve been meaning to try this with pork for a while. If you do then let me know! You could also use seared chicken breast.
Products that work great for this recipe:
Beeswax Food Wraps
T-fal Nonstick Pan
Tender pan-seared salmon on a bed of zingy wholegrain mustard dressed lentils and wilted spinach. Simple yet impressive. This is a great dish to make for one or for a group.
The default recipe serves one.
- 50g uncooked puy or green lentils
- 1 bay leaf (fresh or dry)
- 150g salmon fillet with skin
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 small red onion (around 40g), diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- large handful spinach
For the dressing
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 tsp lemon juice
1. Rinse and drain the lentils well and add to a pan. Cover with around 1-2 inches of water, add the bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes for green or puy lentils or 30 minutes if you are using brown.
2. Around 15 minutes before the lentils are ready start to prepare the rest of the meal. Pat the salmon with paper towel to dry and, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and mustard with a spoon.
3. Add the olive oil to a frying pan or skillet over a high heat and, when hot, add the salmon, skin side down. Cook for around 3-4 minutes before flipping onto the flesh side. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the salmon from the pan and set aside, covered with some foil.
4. In the same pan as you cooked the salmon, add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the spinach and use kitchen tongues to turn it every few seconds and move it around the pan until it’s wilted down.
5. Add the lentils to the pan, season well and add the mustard mixture. Stir everything together well, breaking up the spinach so it doesn’t clump together and ensuring the mustard dressing has coated the lentils evenly.
6. Spoon the lentils onto a plate and then serve with the salmon on top.
- Don’t add salt to the lentil cooking water it can toughen the lentils.
- The lentil cooking time will give an al dente result. If you prefer them softer then increase the cooking time for an additional 5 minutes or so.
- You can use pre-cooked lentils if you prefer. Use Xg of cooked lentils per person.
- I used a mixture of spinach and red amaranth leaves for the pictures you see – to give an extra pop of colour. If you can find them then you can use them in the same way as you have the spinach. In Duabi (where I live) they are very easy to find in most supermarkets and cheap!
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Hob
- Cuisine: British
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 600
- Fat: 31g
- Carbohydrates: 32g
- Protein: 42g
Keywords: salmon, lentils, spinach, wholegrain mustard, dinner