Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Lentils of the Palais des Epices

Thursday is market day in our village. I rarely have the opportunity to do my shopping there as I’m working most Thursdays, Friday being my day off. However, yesterday was an exception, as I’m on sick leave, nursing a recurrent back problem. So I took an extra painkiller and strolled down to the market to get some fresh grey North Sea shrimps to make another Belgian classic: ‘Tomates crevettes’, but that’ll be the topic of a separate post.

Our village market is very nice and has some great fish, poultry, cheese and vegetable stalls. The produce is fresh and attractive and the vendors do great business, especially on a warm autumn day like yesterday.

However, our little market is ‘peanuts’ compared to what we saw at the Halles de Tours. We’ve been there on several occasions and I’m always overwhelmed by the variety and the quality of the products that are on display. The temptation to buy more than you need – especially when you’re not self-catering – is too big. In the past, I have mainly bought jars of duck fat (to make ‘confit de canard’) and dry goods, such as spices and lentils.

Vegetable stall at the Halles de Tours ...
attractive enough to make you want to become a vegetarian!

I get my spices and lentils at a stall called ‘Le Palais des Epices’. Lentils are, or at least were, not a common food in Belgium. I can’t remember having them at home when I was a little girl. And until recently my mother used to look very worried when I proposed to cook lentils for Sunday lunch … until the day that I made a lentil soup without telling her what it was. She liked and since then, I frequently use them to thicken soups.

My first lentil experience goes back to the eighties when my friend and I had lunch at a ‘routier’ in Normandy. The ‘plat du jour’ was pork roast with green lentils. To be honest, I didn’t really like them and I didn’t finish my plate. My second lentil experience dates from the beginning of this century when I had them with stewed rabbit in a cosy little restaurant ‘La Route d’Or’, located on the steps of the Saint Martin’s church in Candes Saint-Martin. And guess what, I found them delicious.

Last week I came across these useful tips about lentils in a Belgian magazine for 50+ readers … like me!

The text reads:

Tips and things you should know

- Green lentils have a very thin peel (and therefore are easy to digest). Green lentils from the Puy area in France are the best. No wonder they were the first vegetables to obtain the A.O.C. label.
- Blond or yellow-greenish lentils are larger, but not as tasty.
- Red lentils are starchier but are perfect to make mash or to bind soups.
- Coral lentils are red lentils that have been peeled. They are ideal for recipes that require short cooking times.
- Use 4 glasses of water to boil 1 glass of lentils. Never add salt as it will harden the lentils.
- For an easier digestion, add some beankraut or nutmeg to the cooking water.

Do you like lentils and how do you prepare them?


Carolyn said...

Sorry to hear about your back problem. Those can be hard to overcome.

We make a nice lentil soup we serve with a peeled hard-boiled egg per person, plus toasted cumin. I also make lentil burgers using crushed saltines and chopped onion.

Jean said...

We always enjoy lentils when we are on holiday in France but never cook them at home. I think there is a packet of Puy lentils in the cupboard somewhere. I'll fish it out and have a try.

Hope your back gets better soon.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Martine, I say salade de lentilles, en vinaigrette. With some chopped shallots and parsley. I never had lentils when I was growing up, but I learned to love them when I lived in Paris in the 1970s.

What is beankraut, by the way?

ladybird said...

Carolyn, Thanks for the tip!

Jean, Will you post your recipe the next time you cook lentils?

Ken, Excellent idea too.
The French name is Sarriette. Could that be Savory in English?


Ken Broadhurst said...

Oui, Martine, c'est ça : sarriette en français veut dire "savory" en anglais. Je ne connaissais pas l'autre nom.

Nadege said...

I love sarriette so much that I planted some. I use it in place of thymes in some dishes. Lentils are delicious.

Carolyn said...

Aha! Now I know what those "sarriette" seeds are that a generous gardener in France gave me for my home garden. I had been meaning to look it up.

ladybird said...

Nadege, I 've never used savory to replace thym, but it seems like a very good idea to me.

Carolyn, Will you be planting them, now that you know what they are?