The epitome of home comfort eating, Lentils with Bacon evoke happy childhood memories, mild winters in Provence and my mother’s delicious food.
A very versatile dish, for Winter or Summer, Lentils with Bacon can be eaten hot or cold, as a main dish or as an accompaniment to meat or fish.
Pulses are very healthy as well as nutritious. They are high in fibre and an excellent source of protein.
I always use lentilles vertes du Puy (Puy Lentils) because they are tasty and cook well, remaining firm.
They don’t need to be pre-soaked but you have to rinse them before cooking. It is also wise to check that there is no grit left, although it is very rare to find any.
Le Puy is a city in the Central Massif of France and the lentils are grown there.
Most supermarkets stock these lentils, so they are easy to source.
250g Puy Lentils
1 onion, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 vegetable stock cubes
2 table spoon sunflower oil
1. Gently fry the onion, garlic, carrots and the lardons in a large cooking pot ( or a pressure cooker).
2. Add the lentils and cover with 3 times their volume of water then add the stock cubes. Alternatively, you can replace half the quantity of water by a dry white wine.
3. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
4. Serve immediately as a main course with thick slices of country bread or as an accompaniment.
For a different starter, serve the lentils cold with a vinaigrette.
Mention the word sprouts and generally there is an expression of intense dislike. These poor vegetables are accused of being tasteless and overcooked, usually boiled in water.
Being used to eating tasty Brussels sprouts, I have shared our family recipe with quite a large number of people who have enjoyed this way of preparing them.
So, to change the bad reputation of sprouts, there it is:
1kg fresh Brussels sprouts, rinsed
1large onion, peeled and sliced
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
1 table spoon olive oil
100 ml dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1. Remove the stalks from the sprouts and cut a small cross at the bottom. (This will ensure a more even cooking at the heart of the sprouts).
2. Warm up the olive oil in a cast iron cooking pot, if you have one, or in any cooking pot.
Add the onion and the carrot slices and toss for a few minutes.
3. Then add the sprouts and the lardons, a little salt, pepper. ( Beware not to put too much salt as the lardons are already salty). Add the wine.
Stir and put the lid on. Simmer for 8 minutes.The steam produced will cook the sprouts delicately.
4. Serve immediately.
Tip: For those who like them, a few vacuum-packed chestnuts will give a festive taste to the sprouts.
If you choose to add them, do it 5 minutes before the end of cooking time.
Comfort food is what is needed and what better than a plate of coarsely mashed potatoes with cèpes?
I always keep some dried cèpes and they transform any simple dish into something special. They are a very nice addition to any sauce, meat dish or omelette.
The bonus is the delicate aroma they exhale when they are rehydrating.
3 big potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 small tub of single cream (or 1small tin of Carnation milk)
25g dried cèpes ( = bolets or porcini mushrooms)
50g butter, melted
Salt and pepper
1. Cook the potatoes and onion in a pressure cooker or boil them in a saucepan.
2. Meanwhile, soak the mushrooms in a 200ml hot water for 15 minutes.
When they are rehydrated, drain them and toss them in a frying pan containing the melted butter. Keep the water in which they soaked to add to a sauce or a soup. Some of this broth can also be added to the mashed potatoes.
3. When the potatoes and onion are cooked, mash them coarsely with a fork, add the cream, a little mushroom broth and the cèpes, season and serve immediately.
This goes very well with meat or fish.
Finally, I am pleased that we were able to savour crabs with rice, thanks to our fishmonger who, not only provided us with small soft-shelled crabs from the Orkneys, but also offered to cook them “humanely” in cold water first.
So, not the original favouilles but very tasty crabs all the same!
Adaptation and improvisation remain the key elements of the way I cook, and that´s fine for me! (Hopefully, also for my family and guests).
There will be no recipe nor pictures of snails this time, just a funny story which brought light relief in an otherwise gloomy week.
Feeling peckish and nostalgic, I recently ordered a dish of half a dozen snails in garlic sauce as a starter. My husband chose the same dish.
When the plates arrived, holding the promise of that classic delicacy, we tucked in with great gusto. The little escargot plates (special hollowed out plates) were full of garlic and parsley sauce but our snail forks could not find any snails. None of the 12 little compartments contained a snail!
We called the waiter who checked and confirmed that someone in the kitchen had forgotten to put the snails in the sauce.
We joked that perhaps the snails had escaped in the kitchen!
He took our plates away and returned later with properly filled escargot plates.
The manager decided not to charge us for this and also offered a free liqueur after coffee. It was a nice gesture, testimony that some restaurants still know how to treat customers.
This little misadventure has not put us off and we shall continue to patronise this restaurant.
It is now mushroom season and they make a marvellous accompaniment to any meat, hot or cold, or any white fish.
They don’t take long to cook and their scent fills the kitchen in a very appetising way.
400g Portobello mushrooms, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
A handful flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper
1. Warm up the oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the mushrooms, the garlic and the parsley.
2. Gently toss for a few minutes until the mushrooms are tender.
3. Season and serve immediately.
Served on slices of freshly baked country bread with a salad or with soup, this makes an easy light meal.
Here is a simple soup that would please Popeye!
A bag of frozen spinach in cream beckons.
It is a comforting dish that can be prepared in minutes and will ensure that your children eat their greens!
300g frozen spinach in cream, defrosted
1 large potato, peeled and boiled.
1 small onion, peeled and boiled
2 small vegetable cubes, disolved in boiling water
1. Whizz the potato and the onion in the vegetable broth.
2. Add the spinach in a big saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Mix all and serve with croûtons.