Lentils. They seem to have disappeared off my local supermarket's shelves. So maybe you all have them to hand? Let's hope so, as this is a tasty and filling dish you can use them for.
Specifically, my recipe was for Lentilles Vertes du Puy, or (Green) Puy lentils. . Cooked with bacon, onion, vegetables, and goose fat*, this traditional dish comes with broth from the cooking juices – just perfect for mopping up with bread – and is often served with petit salé (salted pork).
*Don’t worry if you don’t have all the ingredients (honestly, how many people keep goose fat around the house?!) – I’ve included a little ‘substitutions and recipe ideas’ section at the bottom, including an English language recipe (sorry, I can’t share my translation for copyright reasons), and some ideas for using what you've got.
The name game
The most challenging aspect of this translation was coming up with a name that does the dish justice. The French name is very straightforward. But then it’s well-known, so the name doesn’t need to be especially descriptive or evocative. Naming it ‘Puy lentils’ in English is not good enough. For a start, it doesn’t sound very appetising. It gives no clues about how it’s cooked, which ingredients are used, or what the end result will look like. We need something more.
We could use adjectives. We could include some of the ingredients. We could hint at the dish’s appearance or provenance. I had a bit of a look around for English language recipes. Some did just this: as with 'French-Style Stewed Green Lentils'. Many recipes included the petit salé (salted pork) it’s often accompanied by, and focused on this in its name, as in ‘Salted pork in lentils with broth.’
Others just used the French name, perhaps in a bid to sound more appealing, fancy, or so that those who know of the French dish could identify it. This is certainly a valid solution, but I think this makes it less accessible to the English cook. Many overcome this problem by also including an English description. Interestingly, a few miss the vital accent in salé, instead using sale, which means, among other things, ‘dirty.’ Not so appealing! (Although it did make me giggle.) In fact, some list the recipe as ‘petit salé’ although the recipe itself is just for the accompanying lentil dish .
On that note, some English websites describe petit salé as ‘salted/cured pork belly’ but according to Femme Actuelle it can be a number of cuts or pork, which are brined:
'Le terme « petit salé » désigne divers morceaux de viande de porc saumurés pour leur conservation, mais aussi plus généralement, le plat réalisé à partir de cette viande.'
Source: Femme Actuelle.
While we’re at it, let’s give a little context to Puy lentils. Puy lentils are a specific type of green lentil which are renowned for holding their shape during cook, and for a slightly different flavour.
'Puy lentils, or lentilles du Puy, are French lentils that have been grown in the Puy region of central France. The variety is the same, but since they are grown in this distinct place (which has volcanic soil) the taste is slightly different — it’s even more peppery and flinty. If your bag of French lentils aren’t noted as Puy, then they were grown outside of this famous region[...]'
Source: The kitchn
They actually have an appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), recognition of their particular characteristics. Find out even more about these lentils.
Getting back to the name, here are a few of my suggestions, with some inspiration from friends (thanks Emeline and Kylie!). I’m not sure which is my favourite. Maybe you have another great idea? I'd love you to share your thoughts!
Country lentil stew
Puy lentils and bacon in broth
Hearty Puy lentils with broth
Puy lentils with bacon and veg
Classic French lentils
The cooking was pretty simple. I swapped goose fat for butter, and served with pork sausages rather than salted pork. I chopped up some slices of bacon rather than using lardons.
The dish was delicious. The leek, bacon, onion, and carrot cooked down in butter (also known as a mirepoix) brought such a decadent flavour to the lentils. Salty, rich, and satisfying.
Substitutions and recipe ideas
To adapt this recipe, I would recommend:
Omit the gammon joint – I don’t think it’s needed, the bacon gives enough flavour – unless you happen to have a ham hock or something similar.
Use whichever sausages you like or can get, or swap them out for salmon, trout, or duck (as recommended by my source recipe).
Leek does something magical when cooked slowly in butter, so use one if you have it.
Adapt the amount of vegetables as needed.
Feel free to use green lentils rather than Puy lentils, but not red or brown as they’ll turn mushy.
Either use potatoes or serve with bread. You probably don’t need both.
Use a decent amount of herbs. Most recipes call for a bouquet garni, but throw in what you have – herbs like rosemary, bay leaf and sage are great.
No idea just yet – watch this space.