(* this dish is a version of the one listed in the fabulous “French Farmhouse Cookbook” by Susan Herrmann Loomis)
Nothing like keeping the monsieur happy – and at this time more than any other. Harvest time means good, honest, country cooking and this very simple (the best kind!) lentil dish is a winner in our house. It’s easy and so versatile – it’s great on its own or delicious paired with country sausages, pork chops, lamb chops, whatever you feel like. They say that dried pulses were a staple in many homes during the harsh Winter months, a time when people also consumed more preserved, salted meats (no wonder I feel like large slabs of juicy ‘petit sale’ with my lentils).
And it’s another one of those dishes that tastes better and better each day it gets older!
I first tried this dish here in France at Benji’s parents’ house. A large cast-iron pot was plonked in the middle of the table and we helped ourselves to this comfort-food’ – the country sausages (mmn, like a bit of country saucisse, but not these!!) swimming in a dark brown-green mass of steaming lentils, with dollops of Dijon mustard, soaking it all up with crusty bread and wine.
I’m wondering if it was the first time I’d had ‘Puy’ lentils? These are a dark green/grey coloured lentil commonly found in ‘Le Puy’, in the Auvergne area of France. Grown in volcanic soil, they are very small and lovely to cook with as they retain their form. Until that time, all the lentil dishes I’d tried were mostly Indian influenced, eg dhal, using red or brown lentils. Come to think of it, I used to eat a lot more ‘Asian’-influenced dishes in Australia. Coriander, soy sauce, chillies and limes were far more common sights in the kitchen than wild thyme, bay leaves and olive oil. Who would have thought…
500g green Puy lentils (this will serve about 6 people)
2 onions, diced
4 carrots, chopped
250g salted pork, cut into chunks (optional)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
country sausages/ frankfurters (1-2 per person) – (optional)
parsley and mustard for serving
pepper to taste (if you are using the salted pork you will not need to add any salt)
Fry your onion until golden in a generous amount of olive oil, in a heavy casserole pot
+ During this time, boil a full kettle of water for pouring over the lentils later – the hot water greatly reduces the cooking time +
Add the roughly cut chunks of salted pork and fry for a few minutes, stirring frequently
Add the carrots and the garlic, give a good stir
Now add the lentils, stir well
Pour boiling water to cover well.
N.B. During the cooking, you will find that the lentils soak up a lot of water, you may need to add a second pot of boiling water over the mixture if you have no liquid left. I know, it may look like you are drowning the lentils with water, but believe me it does dry up!
Add herbs and pepper to taste.
N.B. You do not need to add salt if using the salted pork (I’ve made that mistake!) – but if you’re not using meat DO NOT salt at this point. – adding salt to lentils during cooking may toughen them up. Add it after the cooking.
Cover with lid and let simmer for one hour (if you have too much liquid, leave the lid slightly ajar) – or until lentils are tender.
Voila! – and enjoy with a light red or a dry white…