Lentil Salad with Grated Sweet Potato and Black Olives in a Curried Dressing

This salad has spark, colour and enough weirdness to arouse the curiosity of a co-worker: radishes and black olives?

June 10, 2012 | | Recipes

Once, I had a friend – we’ve lost touch, haven’t spoken in years – who married young and lived with her husband in an apartment above one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in Toronto, on Spadina Ave. There was a large deck, perfect for midnight summer soirees, and a hammock that hung between the bedrooom and the living room. At 3 a.m., when I was stumbling out onto the spit-strewn smelly sidewalk, there was always a line up out front of the restaurant. The place would be packed. Back at the party, they were still calling down for the special order of “green tea” which meant Budweiser in cans in a paper bag at a premium. But apart from all that, what I remember about her, and we always remember something about the people we meet, was that she liked to go to St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday morning and she liked to buy fresh sesame covered Montreal bagels, chewy and sweet, and then she liked to eat the warm bread with salty black olives and crunchy hot red radishes. I was pretty sure she was onto something.

I love lentils. They’re like perfect little morsels of earthiness. This salad uses the smallish brown Eston lentils (although these days I’m cooking the tiny black beluga ones and then combining them with a slightly larger chewier brown lentil. I like the contrast). Any lentil would work, but avoid the big, fat green ones. They’re better served in a soup. Lentils shouldn’t be mushy. They should act like a sprinkling of nuts, something dense, dark and wonderful.

Legumes typically go well with a lot of different flavours. Last winter, I couldn’t get enough of a salad that I took to work all winter long: lentils in a mustard vinaigrette tossed with a generous amount of escarole lettuce – the sweet, bitter, crunchy sort – and just before eating I’d heat it in the microwave for a minute until the lettuce just barely began to wilt and then I’d toss it all together: the steaming lentils, the pungent vinaigrette, the almost cooked greens, and it was, I’m not kidding, one of the most incredible things I have ever eaten. It was France. It was moss. It was eating the most delectable thing you dug up from the ground.

Lentils – think of a great dahl – go well with curry spices. If they go well with curry, they go well with root vegetables and likely heat and also something fresh and zingy (parsley and mint). In which case, a curried vinaigrette tossed with lentils and radish and parsley and mint with the odd, possibly Moroccan influence of oily sun cured black olives, makes perfect sense. Right?


In an honourable, copy cat bow to Mark Bittman of the New York Times, I grated raw sweet potato for this salad, which, to be honest, I would not have thought of doing before. Mark grates a lot of raw vegetables and uses them in wonderful ways: Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, jicama. This inspires me.

Here’s a loose dressing recipe:

In a small jar I shook together a tbsp of curry powder, a wee bit of mustard, a dropping of maple syrup, lots of fresh lemon juice and some olive oil. Sea salt is encouraged. Black pepper doesn’t really work, but red chili flakes are a nice surprise. And finally, some minced jalapeno pepper is good too.

Lentil Salad with Grated Sweet Potato and Black Olives in a Curried Dressing


  • tbsp of curry powder
  • a wee bit of mustard
  • a dropping of maple syrup
  • lots of fresh lemon juice and some olive oil
  • Sea salt is encouraged
  • Black pepper doesn't really work, but red chili flakes are a nice surprise.
  • And finally, some minced jalapeno pepper is good too.


  1. see above

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Daphne,

    I think I must have enjoyed your amazingly delicious vegetarian dishes at the Dunedin Art Centre back in the summer of 2003. I’ve never forgotten the wonderful meals we had that week.

    When you publish your cookbook, please let me know. I’d love one for myself and others also.

    So pleased to accidentally find you…..was actually looking up info on Dan Needles and came across this website for IN THE HILLS magazine. Love it! Is it published on paper and if so where can one buy it?

    Best regards,
    Marilyn BB

    Marilyn Belec Bittman from Canada on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply

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