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One French word : boulette, a French recipe: lentilles corail aux boulettes

Boulette, feminine noun (une boulette, la boulette, des boulettes) = a little ball, as in meatball (pronounced boo-let, slight stress on the first syllable).

Expression: faire une boulette = to make a mistake.

Une boule = a ball, the shape of a ball, not a sports ball, which is une balle – une balle de tennis, une balle de golf, or if it’s bigger un ballon – un ballon de rugby, un ballon de foot). But you do say une boule de bowling. Not a ball of wool either, that is une pelote.

Une boule de crystal = a crystal ball, une boule puante = a stink bomb. Un boulet = a cannon ball, or the ball on the end of a ball and chain (expression être un boulet = to be a burden, something someone drags behind them like a ball and chain!).

Expressions: ça me fout les boules = it scares me, but one often just says les boules! = scary!   Mettre un coup de boule = to butt someone with your head. Bouboule is an affectionate nickname (not always so very affectionate in fact) for someone who is “chubby”. All of these expressions are somewhat slang.

Lentilles corail aux boulettes

My recipe for today is for lentilles corail aux boulettes = orange lentils with little lamb meatballs.

For 4 people you will need:

  • 250gr of orange lentils (lentilles corail) (any leftovers can be used in a salad)
  • a couple of  handfuls of raisins (sultanas are best)
  • 400gr raw shoulder or leg of lamb
  • 2 finely chopped medium sized onions
  • 3 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • a little olive oil
  • a little flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2tbs fresh parsley or coriander (or both)
  • a little fresh chopped mint
  • 1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or a little tabasco

The chopped ingredients ready to make into boulettes


  1. Rinse the lentils, put them in a saucepan with twice their volume of water, no salt, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the raisins to the lentils and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Drain and keep warm. These lentils cook very quickly. Don’t let them go to a complete mush.
  3. While they are cooking, chop the onion and the garlic and fry in olive oil until transparent. Add two tbs of the mixture to the lentils.  Transfer  the rest to a large bowl.
  4. Stir the onion gently into the lentils, add a little salt, and put them back to keep warm.
  5. Cube and mince the lamb in the blender, it should be fairly finely minced, but not to a paste. It doesn’t matter much if there are a few slightly larger pieces in there.
  6. Put the lamb in the bowl with the onion.
  7. Add all the spices and herbs (except the mint and one tbs parley or coriander) to the mixture plus some salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  8. Wet your hands and form into balls the size of a large marble (about 2cm across). Place on a floured plate and roll quickly to coat lightly with flour.
  9. In a little more olive oil, fry the boulettes briskly, turning frequently,  for 5 minutes. When you turn them, try to roll them and not pick them up with tongs. They tend to disintegrate a bit (which is not a problem really, they are just as delicious), but hold up better if you roll them. Get them crispy on all sides and cooked through.
  10. Serve on a bed of lentils, garnished with the remaining chopped mint and parsley or coriander.

Boulettes ready for frying

Lentils with sultanas and fried onion

The whole preparation process takes about half an hour, but it only needs five minutes for the dish to be eaten all up and plates wiped clean. Any leftover boulettes can be kept in the fridge, covered, for not more than a day and warmed up with pasta for instance. They also freeze very well. It is worth making a huge batch and freezing them raw (or cooked, that’s ok too).

Boulettes and lentils, ready to eat

Bon appétit!


About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

2 responses »

  1. the kids and I are thoroughly enjoying your ‘boulette’ language lesson today, and funnily enough I posted Thila’s favourite dish she prepared on our last holiday at the beach house just hours ago……. birds nests (the dutch equivalent of meatballs with an egg in the middle!).
    enjoy the weekend!
    Liz x

  2. Yes Liz, I saw we’d done similar recipes today!


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