Roasted Vegetable and French Lentil Salad with a Tangy Balsamic Vinegar and Fennel Seed Dressing

Vegan Life Issue 6

As usual, this month’s issue of Vegan Life was packed with inspiring articles, as well as a whole bunch of mouth-watering recipes. I was especially excited to see the feature on Daniel Acevedo, Head Chef at Mildreds Vegetarian Restaurant in Soho, London. I’ve heard so many good things about this restaurant and one day hopefully I’ll get to experience it for myself.

Vegan Life Issue 6

Until then, I was looking forward to re-creating Dan’s signature dish at home… even if it did include the one vegetable that I professed to dislike: fennel.

Whenever people have asked me what my favourite vegetable is, my typical response has been “I love all vegetables… except fennel”. I was never quite sure what it was about fennel I disliked. I just remember trying it a couple of times in restaurants and really, really disliking it. Anyway, last week I decided it was time I gave fennel another chance.

Fennel Bulb 400

Dan’s signature salad consists of a selection of colourful roasted veggies, lentils and leaves, drizzled in a tangy fennel seed dressing.

Roasted Veggies

For me, it’s the dressing that brings a salad to life and makes it ‘sing’. Just check out the dressing that comes with this salad.

Tangy Balsamic Vinegar and Fennel Seed Dressing

Vibrant, tangy with a hint of aniseed. This dressing is mind-blowingly good. It’s amazing I had enough left to take this pic as I couldn’t resist ‘tasting’ spoonfuls as it was simmering.

Fennel Dressing

Typical of me, I did make a couple of adaptations to the recipe. For a start, I cheated and used a can of lentils instead of cooking them from scratch. I also substituted the tomatoes with roasted cauliflower. Lil’ L isn’t a fan of tomatoes (unless they’re blended) and since trying the recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Paprika and Oregano posted by Gluten Free SCD and Veggie, cauliflower has moved up the ranks from one of my family’s least favourite vegetables to the ‘love it’ category. Dare I admit it… sometimes I roast a tray of cauliflower and eat the whole lot in one go. Honestly, it’s that good.

Roasted Vegetable and French Lentil Salad

The first time I made Dan’s signature salad, I ended up eating it twice in one day. For lunch, I served it with beetroot salad and, for a heartier main meal, I served it over couscous. The dressing soaked into the couscous, giving it the most amazing flavour.

Roasted Vegetable and French Lentil Salad

This is a recipe that I know I’ll be making time and again this summer. It’s perfect for al fresco lunches and is definitely special enough to serve to friends and family. It’s got rave reviews from all the adults that I’ve served it to so far.

Lil’ L gave it a big thumbs up too! It’s the first time he’s experienced fennel, so I’m really glad it was a more positive one than mine. I don’t think the salad is going to be universally kid-friendly, but I know a few out there that love roasted veggies and tangy dressings so, if this is your kid, I’d definitely encourage them to give it a try.

[print_this] Adapted from the Puy Lentil Salad with Roasted Vegetables from Mildreds The Cookbook by Daniel Acevedo & Sarah Wasseman.

Delicious served warm or cold, this salad is perfect for al fresco lunches with friends and family. For a heartier evening meal, we love to serve it on a bed of couscous or millet. All the components can easily be made a day or two in advance. You can substitute the vegetables with any others you like roasted. The original recipe used cherry tomatoes (tossed in at the same time as the fennel), which I substituted with cauliflower.

Serves: 4-6
Hands on time: 30 minutes   Cooking time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 40 minutes


Roasted Vegetables:
300g / 2 heaping cups butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm / ¾ inch wedges
½ small-medium head of cauliflower, sliced into florets
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
Olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1cm / 1/3 inch wide strips
1 courgette (zucchini), halved lengthwise and sliced
1 red bell pepper (capsicum), deseeded and sliced
1 yellow or orange bell pepper (capsicum), deseeded and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 red onion, very finely diced
80ml / ⅓ cup olive oil
80ml / ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely diced (also remove membrane if serving to small children as this is where the heat is concentrated)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBSP dark brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
3 TBSP tomato puree (paste)
1 TBSP fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed

400g / 14 oz can of French lentils, rinsed and drained (I used Epicure Organic Bijoux Verts), or use 115g / 4 oz dried Puy lentils
Colourful salad leaves

Large handful toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) / 400F. If using dried puy lentils, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the lentils, lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain and set to one side.

For the roasted vegetables, arrange the butternut squash pieces and cauliflower florets in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle ½ tsp paprika and 1 tsp oregano over the cauliflower. Add a light sprinkling of salt to all the veggies. Drizzle in a little olive oil and stir to coat. Roast in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes. Toss the fennel in a little oil, add to the pan and roast for another 10 minutes. Finally, toss the courgettes and peppers in a little oil, add to the pan and roast for a further 10 minutes, or until all the veggies are soft and starting to brown round the edges. Remove the pan from the oven, add the lentils and stir through to combine.

While the veggies are roasting, prepare the dressing. Dry fry the fennel seeds in a frying pan (skillet) on medium heat, stirring continuously. As soon as they start to brown and become fragrant remove from the heat. Lightly crush using a mortar and pestle or electric grinder. Place the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red onion, chilli, garlic, sugar, tomato puree and crushed toasted fennel seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved. Set to one side to cool.

For the garnish, fry some pumpkin seeds in a drop of olive oil on medium heat, stirring regularly. As soon as they start to brown and pop, remove from the heat.

When ready to serve, arrange salad leaves in a large bowl. Add the roasted veggies and lentils. Drizzle on the dressing and stir through to combine. Sprinkle the toasted pumpkin seeds on top and serve.


After experiencing this salad, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Mildreds Cookbook, published last month. So many delicious sounding recipes in it. As soon as I’ve had a chance to try some out, I’ll be sure to publish a review.

Mildreds Cookbook

So, it turns out that I LOVE roasted fennel! It tastes a bit like roasted onion but with a subtle hint of aniseed. This is so different to my first experience of fennel, which was crunchy and overpowering. I’m so happy to be over the fennel issue. Now I can honestly say I love ALL vegetables. No exceptions 😉

 Are there any vegetables that you profess to dislike?




10 thoughts on “Roasted Vegetable and French Lentil Salad with a Tangy Balsamic Vinegar and Fennel Seed Dressing

  1. We had the option of going to Mildred’s last time we were in London but came across Tibits first and decided to have lunch there, next time we go we must try and find Mildred’s.

    Thank you for the mention! I’m glad cauliflower is now in the “love it” category! If I see fennel mentioned in a dish, I run a mile – maybe I should try this recipe to see if I change my mind too! I don’t mind fennel seeds in curries but like you whenever I’ve chosen a fennel dish, I’ve not been too happy.

    The colours in this salad look awesome, particularly the dressing. I reckon I could leave out the fennel bulb and use shallots instead or maybe I’ll give it a go if it only has a hint of an aniseed taste!

    1. Hey Vicky, you should definitely give fennel another shot. The roasted version is so nice – mellow, onion-like, with a gentle hint of aniseed. It’s NOTHING like the fennel I’ve had before in restaurants dishes!
      It would be so cool if you become a fennel convert too 😉

    1. White potatoes can be a bit bland. Mind you, I do love a good jacket potato… one that’s all soft in the middle and crispy on the outside. Haven’t had one of those in ages!

    1. Has your other half tried roasted fennel? Roasting it was definitely the game changer for me.
      I’m really glad to hear you’ve had good experiences at Mildreds. I’d read a few reviews lately that were starting to put me off :/ I’ll put it back on the list and hopefully get to check it out myself one day.

    1. So pleased to hear that you’re enjoying it too! I made it for lunch with my girlfriends today and it was a big hit. Not a scrap left in the bowl 😀

  2. When you say you “subbed tomatoes for roasted cauliflower” that means you took out the cauliflower and put in tomatoes. I gathered from the lines that followed that what you meant was the opposite: “I subbed/substituted roasted cauliflower for tomatoes.” Just so you know. I’m only mentioning this here because I’ve seen other people make the same mistake and I’d hate to think it might get out of hand. 😉 [Notes from a professional, and compulsive editor]

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