For me, one of the best things about going on holiday is the inspiration it brings to the food you prepare and eat. Having spent some time in France back in September, I picked up one or two good ideas for French countryside fare. Green lentils have long been a staple ingredient in rustic French cuisine. And you can see why; a few special additions transform what is an otherwise basic ingredient into a rich and delicious French Green Lentil Stew.
Ingredients like pancetta and red wine may not seem entirely frugal, but even in small quantities they make an astounding difference. Huge gains; little expenditure. Being economical needn’t come at the expense of good-quality ingredients.
Technically speaking, a dish like this should use lentilles du puy, a region-specific ingredient protected in the same way as Champagne or Cornish pasties. Unfortunately, these are far more expensive than your average green lentils. If you can justify the added expense, then don’t let me stop you. But this dish is so rich and flavoursome that it hardly matters.
For me, French Green Lentil Stew is great eaten alone, perhaps with a hunk of bread and cheese. However, if you’d like to make it a little more special – perhaps for a dinner party – a few slices of pan-fried duck breast or salmon placed on top wouldn’t go amiss. Obviously, such indulgence would add considerably to the price of the dish, so I’ll leave it up to you.
French Green Lentil Stew
- 1 small onion, diced
- 50g pancetta, finely sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
- 40g butter
- 150g green lentils
- 50ml red wine
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
- 400ml chicken stock
- a handful of parsley, finely chopped
- Heat the oil in a large, wide pan. Fry the onion together with the pancetta on a high heat until both are browned.
- Add the fennel and butter and cook down until soft. Incorporate the lentils, wine, garlic and chicken stock and stir.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are softened. Stir through the parsley and serve immediately.
Cost: French Green Lentil Stew; a perfectly rustic dish, full of rich flavours and simple ingredients. By making the most of a small of amount of wine and pancetta it’s simple to keep the cost of the recipe down. In fact, the ingredients listed above should set you back a mere £2.50.