Unlike in traditional Indian cuisine where lentils are usually the main dish, French green lentils are served as a side with sausages or various meats. Of course, with as many vegetarians as I have in my home, I typically serve it without meat.
In this recipe I cooked the lentils with fennel, fresh lemon thyme, black peppercorns, caramelized onions and a bay leaf. They lentils are known as “Puy” lentils because they originate from Le Puy, in the Auvergne region of France. They have an almost blue-ish shine with a delicate, peppery flavor.
Servings: 4 servings
1¼ cups French green lentils
¾ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
1 white onion, finely chopped
½ fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon salt, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon
2 teaspoons lemon zest
6 cups water, as needed
1 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
Wash the lentils and discard any floating or odd-shaped ones. Wash and rinse thoroughly in several water baths (about three times). No soaking time is required. Drain the lentils, removing as much of the soaking water as possible. Place them in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, cook for about 2-3 minutes, then drain.
In a small pot, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf, then cook until fragrant. Add the fennel and celery and cook for about 5 more minutes. Add the lentils, cloves, peppercorns and baking soda. Complete with 3 cups of water; the water should barely cover the lentils. Bring to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer for about 45 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of salt half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the lentils and the lentils will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so the lentils don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf. Add 1 cup water, lemon juice, lemon zest and parsley. Bring back to a boil and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes over low-heat.
For a faster coking time, you could also cook the lentils in a pressure cooker. It would take only 20 minutes (instead of a long hour).
The lentils will be easier to digest once quickly blanched and baking soda has been added to the cooking liquid.