Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Never-Ending Packet of Lentils.

    Here's a fact to bring out next time conversation grinds to a halt: Did you know that--even in France-- many "French" lentils actually hail from Canada? Mostly from Saskatchewan. "French green" is simply a type of lentil, like "Spanish brown." If you want to buy authentic French lentils in France, you have to look for the AOC ones from Le Puy-en-Velay (the original Puy lentils). In fact, in the EU, you mustn't call a lentil a "Puy' lentil unless it actually comes from there. They're said to taste better because the volcanic soil around there adds mineral-ly flavours.
    Seeing that the town of Le Puy is only about six hours drive from here, you'd think they'd cost less than those that had been transported across the Atlantic, but no.
    The real thing was going for more than 2 euros for 500 g the last time I checked whereas 84 centimes got me this, the same amount of SuperU's own house brand. Mea culpa for the large carbon footprint--I didn't realize they were Canadian until I read the small print on the packet. (All I can say in compensation is that everything else in the meal was local--some of it from our garden.)

    The recipe said to use the entire 500 g to feed four people. First I made a mirepoix of chopped onions, carrots, celery and lardons, then added the lentils and water, and simmered everything together for about half an hour. Starch and veg in one dish. Always useful. For seasoning, I threw in sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf, salt, pepper and a few drips of olive oil at the end. If anyone wants the complete recipe, let me know. The rest of the plates were filled with Toulouse sausage and braised leeks.
     Lentilles (the word also means contact lenses) are enormously filling. The next night, I reheated some of the leftovers as little cushions for fried salmon steaks. We still had a long way to go. A couple of lunchtimes later, I scooped out some lentils from a quantity that seemed to be replenishing itself during the night, threw in some chicken stock, added a fistful or two of shredded spinach towards the end of the cooking time and let everything burble together until I could whizz the mixture into a thickish potage. Croutons on top. We did not lack for carbs that day. Later, the same week, another bowl of soup, the lentils left whole this time but with some leftover tinned corn and small chunks of spicy chorizo added.
    Are you keeping count? By now, we'd got ten servings out of that one packet. Now, add two more. The lentils made their final appearance in one of those meals that uses up all the little bits and pieces in plastic containers in the fridge the night before you go to a market. This time, there were were just enough to toss with olive oil and a spritz of lemon juice to serve at room temperature as a side salad.

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