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One French word: potage, a French recipe: potage poireaux/lentilles corail au colombo

Potage, masculine noun (le potage, un potage, des potages) = thick soup (pronounced paw-ta-j)

Lots of different words for soup: la soupe, le bouillon, le potage, le consommé, crème de… (cream of… for creamy soups), le bisque, le velouté, le brouet…

Mange ta soupe, ça te fera grandir is a favourite French expression (eat your soup to grow big and strong).

La Soupe (1865) by William Adolphe Bougereau

La soupe populaire = a soup kitchen

Potage comes from potager = the vegetable garden.

It was cold this morning here, very cold, there was a ground frost during the night, so I thought I’d make soup. I have no old potatoes left, new potatoes are already on the market stalls, so I used orange lentils instead to make a potage poireaux/lentilles corail.

You will need for 4 people:

  • One really large leek plus the tops off some smaller ones, or one large and one medium leek
  • 1tbs butter to sweat the leeks
  • 100gr orange lentils
  • 2 bouillon cubes and a litre of water, or a litre of home made stock if you have it
  • 1 scant level tsp of colombo powder or curry powder (colombo is a Jamaican mix of ground herbs and spices: chili pepper, mustard seeds, sweet chili,  coriander, garlic and curcuma. It is quite powerful but more aromatic than bought curry powder. Do not be tempted to put more. Its purpose is just to give a hint of “something else”, not be overpowering.


  1. Wash and chop the leeks and sweat gently in the butter.
  2. Add the rinsed lentils and stir until the leeks have softened.
  3. Add the colombo powder, the bouillon cubes and the water (or home made stock) and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Whizz to a smooth consistency.
  5. Serve with a dash of cream and a little chopped parsley or any other herb of your choice (in other words, whatever you have on hand – I used pourpier = purslane).

Soups are simple, quick to prepare and endlessly wholesome and comforting.

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!

14 responses »

  1. Perfect for a day like today when we too were chocked in the morning with 15 cm new snow!
    But it also takes me back to a time when I stayed with a family in India. Almost every meal started with a small teacup of a lentil soup, different every time. A good tradition, isn’t it? I bet you could make a new recipe for each day of a month, Caroline!

  2. What a coincidence; I got two huge leeks from my CSA, and I have made your other soup so many times, I want to try something different. I will make this one today. Is there a reason to use the orange lentils, rather than the brown ones?

    • I bought leeks at my farm shop this morning too.
      Yes, definitely a reason to use orange lentils, they cook quicker and they make a soup with a better taste and colour. Brown and other lentils are really better as a vegetable with or without meat.

  3. Just made this soup. Amazing!!!! So simple and so good. I used a spice from a specialty spice company. They called the spice “golden vadouvan.” The soup would have been very different if I had used curry powder. The vadouvan had curry flavor, but much more subtle.

  4. I love the picture you posted to go with this blog.

  5. This recipe got me very interested in the special spice. Vadouvan is the new, “it” spice among the foodie people. I imagine you cannot find it out of San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles. I looked it up and here are the ingredients if you make it yourself:

    2 lb onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 lb shallots, halved
    12 garlic cloves, peeled
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
    1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh curry leaves (optional)
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon ground cardamom
    1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
    3/4 teaspoon turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

    • Thank you for leaving the recipe, Carol. Is it a powder or a paste?

      • It is a paste, not a powder, so I think that is why the expiration date is so soon; it says July 2012. It came in a little plastic bag put inside the spice bottle. I think is great fun to discover new flavors. I did not use enough of it in your soup, because it said to “use sparingly”. I think that is because middle American tastes tend towards the bland. Next time I make your soup, I will use more.

  6. Just the ticket for the foul weather we’re currently having. The heating is on again…


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