Comfort Food With Cat Sarsfield: Provencal-Style Lentils & Charred Romanesco Broccoli

A self-confessed homebody whose favourite activities include cooking, relaxing and finding new places to lie down in her flat, Cat is a writer and food lover who works for our good friends Sonder & Tell
Having lived in some interesting spaces and places (a shed in Cornwall, a bridal suite in California, an old school building in India, a railway house in Sri Lanka – to name a few), Cat is now spending her time writing, cooking and reading in her London flat. 
Cat shares her favourite comfort food recipes. Warning - this blog will make you hungry.
Cat winding down at her home in London

For The Love Of Dinner Parties 

It's 2011. 33 Park Road, Exeter. A student house boasting five bedrooms across three floors and a barely-there living room. But the real attraction? A light-flooded wooden-floored kitchen with a dining table that fit ten people around it. 2011. The year I fell in love with dinner parties.

It set the scene for Come Dine With Me supper swaps, Sunday roasts, pre-drinks and drama socials. The place I'd eat buttery toast dripping with jam and Earl Grey tea from the new Waitrose that just opened down the road (oh the luxury); where we'd gather our friends for a makeshift spa day or to cry about boys. It was when I found solace in bringing people together over food, passing bottles of cheap white wine across the table, sharing big plates of oven-roasted salmon, cauliflower cheese or bowls of silky mashed potatoes.

This love of dinner parties carried on into my early 20s, when I didn't have my own home, but would be welcomed into friends' houses for dinner parties where we played at being adults. This meant three courses, always, and a cheese board with wine to match. Honestly, looking back on these years, I can barely remember the food and only the friends and fun times. Perhaps it was as I gradually made a home for myself, nested into new places, slowly (so, so slowly) bought furniture and became the owner of an actual set of crockery that I began to pay more attention to the ingredients that make a meal.

When I lived by the sea in a tiny little shed at the bottom of a boat builder's garden (not the plot of a children's book, just my 2017 in south Cornwall), dinner parties were less formal. They were smaller, more intimate, and featured proud little sprouts grown in the communal veg patch. Mustard leaves, fresh peas, peppery radishes and never ending oregano. They became less about performing adulthood – the idealised, bacchanalian televised rituals of food and wine-fuelled drama – and more about enjoying it. Softer. Less intense. More intentional.

And now? Well, there's not been many dinner parties around here lately. But as I scroll back to pictures from 2019, the year I moved into my flat, I stumble upon memories of various friendship groups sat on the floor (as I said, I was slow to the furniture game), digging into bowls of fluffy white rice, trays of herb-sprinkled roasted veg and big plates of colourful salads. Grateful for squishy cushions and rugs that double up as table mats.

The last impromptu one was to celebrate my best friend moving back to Vancouver. What began as "let's just have drinks" turned into me rushing to the shops to buy the simplest of ingredients: fresh tomatoes, spaghetti, garlic, feta and very good olive oil. It transformed into the easiest platter of pasta devoured by six hungry people – some of them sat on the floor, even in the presence of a table and chairs.

Some might say a dinner party requires more than four people, but for me three is just perfect. I spent a rainy Sunday afternoon chopping and prepping this Provençal-style.

Provencal-style Lentils & charred Romanesco broccoli

Ingredients:

  • 300g puy lentils 
  • 600ml veg stock 
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • ½ courgette, finely diced
  • ½ shallot, finely diced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • 3 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 tablespoons crème fraîche 
  • 1 Romanesco broccoli, sliced into thick steaks 
  • ½ cup Greek yoghurt
  • Dill and parsley, finely chopped 

Method:

Heat up 2 tablespoons (ish) of extra virgin olive oil and throw in your carrot, courgette, shallot and garlic into a heavy bottomed pan.

Season with a little salt and pepper. Once the vegetables are softening, add your lentils and the stock. Bring to a boil then lower the heat, letting it simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked but have bite. 

In the meantime, heat up the remaining oil in a large pan (I use a cast iron for extra char).

Add the broccoli steaks (you’ll probably get 2-3 proper steaks and the rest will be more broken up – chuck it all in).

Drizzle a little more olive oil on top. Place under a grill at around 200ºC for 10-15 minutes, or until it starts to brown on top. 

Mix the yoghurt, dill and a little lemon juice in a bowl and stir through. Add the mustard and creme fraiche to the lentils (take them off the heat) and stir through the chopped parsley.

Serve the broccoli steaks on top of the creamy lentils and top with yoghurt and dill. I also whipped up some roasted tomatoes and served them with big slices of sourdough to mop up all the juices.

A glass of Côtes De Provence rosé wouldn’t go amiss either… 

Read The Wind Down With Cat Sarsfield here or sign up to Cat's foodie newsletter here.