I love to add lentils to my salads as a way of bulking them up for a hungry crowd. That way they work as both vegetable and carbohydrate, freeing you up to concentrate on the main element—perhaps a lemony roast chicken, or butterflied leg of lamb grilled on the barbecue. Don’t dice the avocado until the last minute or it will discolor.
Boil the lentils in the stock with the bay leaves for about 15 minutes until just cooked. Drain and leave to cool in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, chop the zucchini and peppers into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a roasting pan and place in the oven for 12–15 minutes until tender and slightly coloring at the edges. Leave to cool.
Drain the tomatoes, reserving the oil, and chop into small chunks. Add 1–2 tablespoons of the reserved oil to the lentils. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, and red peppers and season well.
To serve, dice the avocado and stir into the cooled lentils along with the lemon juice, chives, and basil.
HOW TO SEASON LENTILS
Lentils and beans are great bargain ingredients, but they have a protective membrane that can toughen if salted too early. For this reason, always wait until they are cooked before you add the salt.