Sunday, February 5, 2012

Our own Puy-style lentils

For the last few years, we've grown 'French green lentils', as you're meant to call them if they don't actually come from Le Puy--it is the only vegetable to have its own AOC. And no wonder, for these are the finest, tastiest lentils in the world, beside which every other is a boring mess of pottage. Okay so that might sound chauvinistic, but I don't really care. With its pretty look, green with little spots, like a tiny flat bird's egg, (they do go a pale brown when they are fully cooked) subtle, fragrant flavour and nutty texture, the Puy lentil is the king, no, the emperor, of lentils!
This year and the last we had actual Puy lentils brought back from France to sow(other times, we've used the 'French green lentil' packets you can buy in the supermarket these days, coming from other parts of France, or else Victorian green lentils, from the health food shop--Victoria is the only place in Australia that grows this variety of lentils commercially.) But two years ago we went to Le Puy and toured around looking at the lentil fields, eating various lentil dishes in restaurants, and buying some to bring back. Last year unfortunately though the big rains here meant the poor lentils, after looking wonderful for the first couple of months of growth, drowned, and we only just had enough to keep back to sow. But this year they've done well, as David made sure to put in a whole lot of drainage near them(our soil having a strong clay content does not drain easily). The result is--home-grown lentils to eat again!
I love these lentils done pretty simply--I soak them for a few hours(after sifting carefully to remove any stray pebbles that were not spotted at harvest--this is the major problem with growing lentils! )And then fry up some onion in olive oil, add the drained lentils, stir them around, add salt, pepper, garlic, a splash of white wine, then only just cover them with stock or plain water if you prefer. Simmer them till tender(but still nutty) which doesn't take all that long, 15-20 mins or so(taste them to see). Then drain off any remaining liquid, add chopped herbs, a little more garlic, stir around quickly, and serve. I personally love them with meat--either pork(bacon or grilled pork belly)or lamb(shanks especially), but they're beautiful vegetarian style as a main course too. In the picture you can see them simmering on the wood stove with the sauce which will accompany them--a little bacon, onion, garlic, tomato and herbs. Hot, the lentils are gorgeous; cold, as a salad,also superb!

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