classic French lentils

February 17, 2013

There’s no real story to this recipe… I was given some French du puy lentils (green lentils) in a hamper for Xmas and needed a bed for a couple of lovely plump snapper fillets left over from cooking snapper pies (recipe coming shortly). I decided I’d simply pan-fry them in a little butter and wanted to make a healthy, hearty but subtly tasty side dish to serve with them. In the past I’d tried to re-create the French lentils I’d had in Paris and French restaurants a few times, but never nailed it. So I started doing a bit of research and soon realised I had been missing a few key ingredients: a bay leaf, a clove, and a dash of Cognac.

It’s a little bit fiddly in that  you need to add and remove the ingredients at different times to ensure you allow the veges to sweeten and flavour the broth, but not overcook, but it’s worth the effort!

Serves 4 as a side dish

ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils du Puy (green lentils)
  • 1 clove
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1 medium carrot, whole
  • 1 celery stalk, whole
  • 1 garlic clove, whole, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 1/2 cups good quality chicken stock (vegetable stock will work fine too)
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac (or Brandy / a dry Sherry if you don’t have Cognac)
  • 1 French shallot, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper & sea salt

method

  1. Put lentils in a strainer and rinse under cold water. Discard any discoloured lentils.
  2. Put lentils into a medium saucepan, cover them with cold water & bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes then tip into strainer and rinse out the saucepan.
  3. Press the clove into the onion and add into the empty saucepan, along with the carrot, celery, garlic clover and bay leaf. Pour in the stock and add the lentils back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender. As the lentils cook, skim off the foam/scum impurities from the top and stir occasionally.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and cook until they’re tender to your liking (remember to taste!), keep cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes, then pour in the Cognac. Give everything a good stir and another minute over the heat.
  5. Drain the lentils and veges (reserve the cooking broth and put it back on the stove to keep warm) and discard the bay leaf and clove from the onion.
  6. Finely chop the veges (or if you have a little blender pulse them a few time until they re finely diced) – as they were cooked whole, they will be only semi-soft which is what you want, then mix the chopped veges back through the lentils.
  7. At the last minute, stir the finely chopped (raw) shallot through the lentils and veges and add a few tablespoons of the broth back into the mix to your liking.
  8. Serve warm.
  9. If you have any leftovers, once cooled, combine lentil mixture with the broth and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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