Day 20 – a new French word, a new French recipe: lentilles
Lentille, feminine noun (une lentille, la lentille, des lentilles) = lentil (pronounced laan-tee-y, you don’t hear the s in the plural). Usually used in the plural, des lentilles. There are several types of lentil, des lentilles vertes = green lentils, des lentilles du Puy= Puy lentils (le Puy is a place in the centre of France), des lentilles corail= Indian orange lentils; there are a great number of varieties of lentil.
We eat a lot of lentils in France, and produce a lot. But the following figures, provided by FAO Statistics, are really interesting. For 2008, the following countries produced the most lentils: Canada, over 1,000,000 tons (37% of world production); India, 810,000 tons (29%); Nepal, 161,000 tons (6%); China, 150,000 ton (5%); Turkey, 131,000; USA, 109.000; Ethiopia, 94,000; Bangladesh 72,000; Australia, 64,000; Iran, 56,000; Syria, 34,000. Interesting isn’t it? And France doesn’t even figure!
Other uses of the word in French: lentilles de contact = contact lenses, une lentille optique = lens (in a telescope for instance), la lentille d’eau = lemna minor (a tiny green leaved water plant).
My recipe for today : Poitrine de porc rôtie aux lentilles (roast belly of pork and lentils). This dish is more usually made with salt pork, but since I am not sure how easy salt pork is to get in the various countries you are reading from, I have chosen to simplify. Roast belly of pork is in any case delicious, and very economical.
For 4 people you will need:
- 600gr of pork belly (poitrine de porc) with the skin on
- 400gr lentils (brown lentils or Puy lentils, not orange ones)
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- A bouquet garni (remember? celery, thyme, bayleaf tied up together)
- Pepper, salt, vinegar and a little oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 180° (see conversion tables)
- Score the pork rind (la couenne) with a sharp knife so that you can more easily portion out the crackling once it is cooked.
- Rub with salt and a little oil.
- Place in an oven dish and roast for 45mns to 1 hour. The pork will render a fair amount of fat. The skin should be hard and crackly. If it is not, put it under the grill for a few minutes, watching closely so that you remove it before it burns.
- While the pork is roasting, rinse the lentils under running water and examine them to make sure there are no small stones; this is not uncommon, and can break a tooth.
- Put into a saucepan with 1 1/2 litres of water, the bouquet garni, the carrot cut into very small squares, the onion chopped into small pieces. NO SALT. Salt toughens pulses (les légumes secs) if you add before cooking. Add it once the lentils are cooked through.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender but not mushy.
- Drain and serve on warmed plates, accompanied by the pork, cut into four portions, with pieces of crackling alongside. Add freshly ground pepper and a dash of vinegar or even vinaigrette to the lentils and put the pot of French mustard on the table.
Do not throw away the pork fat; you can use it to fry up vegetables for soup; or fry slivers of garlic in irt and put a teaspoonful on top of Chinese pork and vegetable soup (with pan scrapings, even better); or you can spread it on toast for tea with a bit of salt and pepper (not as good as beef dripping, but very tasty nevertheless).
Any left over pork is very good cold, finely sliced (5mm) against the grain, that is from top to bottom of the piece of pork, and nibbled with a glass of wine as an apéritif. Left over lentils are excellent as a salad, with vinaigrette.