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Puy Lentils from the Auvergne region

For a recipe from Auvergne it couldn’t really be anything but Puy lentils really could it? The tiny lentille du Puy is both a common food and an illustrious ingredient used in refined French cooking. Known in France as poor man’s caviar, it has a rich taste and is used in a huge number of dishes.

The lentils, like wine, are designated by an AOC (appellation d’origine controlée),  and only lentils grown near Puy-en-Velay and adhering to the rules of the appellation can be labelled as Puy lentils.  The rich volcanic soil of the region gives them a unique flavour.  However, if you can’t get hold of Puy lentils – you can substitute another type of lentil as preferred, there’s no difference in the cooking of Puy lentils from any other type of lentil.

In culinary terms, a dish served with lentils is referred as “…Esau”. It comes from the biblical character of Esau who sold his birthright to Jacob for a plate of lentils.

For 6 people:

500g Puy lentils

1 onion, peeled and pricked with 3 cloves

1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

1. Soak your lentils for 1 hour. (optional)

2. Put your lentils in a large pot, cover them with a large amount of water, then add the carrots and the onion and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook your lentils at a gentle simmer for around 15-20 minutes

3. Skim off any impurities that come to the surface and season with salt at the end of the cooking time.

Check if your lentils are cooked. Take one between your fingers and press it – if it squashes easily they’re cooked.

This basic recipe will get your lentils ready to be the main ingredient of lentil soup, lentil salad, stews or as an accompaniment for fresh water fish dishes.

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