Think France, think a nice small bistro in a small street, off centre, nothing posh, no Michelin star in sight. It’s 12.30, time for a quick lunch. You enter the restaurant, take a seat and order today’s dish, the plat du jour. It turns out to be a generous helping of brown lentils, two fried sausages and mustard. A beer works beautifully with it. After having enjoyed your lunch, you think about the joy of good food, French mustard and the beauty of lentils. Time for coffee. And maybe a glass of Calvados?
Let’s talk a bit about lentils. Not expensive at all, very healthy and a pack of essential vitamins and nutrients. Lentils are used in many kitchens and grown in many countries (India, Canada, Australia and also Europe, North Africa and the USA). Lentils have been around for a long time, possible 10.000 years. So you would expect lentils to be popular, but for some reason you don’t see them too much, unless in restaurants serving organic food or as soup. Which we think is a pity, because a simple dish of rice and lentils with a dash of chutney is healthy, cheap and tasty. And you can cook the rice and the lentils in one pan to make life even easier.
The red lentil (key element to Indian Dhal) is well-known. We use it in our pumpkin soup. It is a split lentil and it will cook very soft.
The Beluga lentil is black, as the name suggests. We could have used Beluga lentils in this recipe because of the combination with the white fish.
Most lentils are green or brown. The Du Puy green lentil is special, not only because of its Appellation d’origine contrôlée but very much because of their great taste and the fact that they keep a beautiful shape, even when cooked. Beware of fake Du Puy lentils! All Du Puy lentils are green and from France, but not all green lentils from France are Du Puy lentils. They have names like ‘Le Puy lentils’ or ‘Dupuis lentils’. All nasty marketing. If you want real Lentille Verte du Puy then look for the A.O.P and A.O.C. We prefer the ones from Sabarot.
The recipe for the plat du jour is relatively straight forward (make sure the meat in the sausage is not too finely minced) and we have enjoyed it many times.
Lentil soup combines really well with fresh cilantro, so we use the same combination in this case, although using fresh parsley is also a good idea. Key elements in this dish are excellent fresh cod, a mild fish stock and cilantro seeds.
We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellon Rueda 2016. In general wines made from the Verdejo grape combine very well with fish. The wine comes with the right acidity, giving freshness to the wine. It has floral aromas typical for the Verdejo grape. You may recognise the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.
Here is what you need:
- Cilantro Seeds
- Green, Du Puy or Beluga Lentils
- Mild Fish Stock
- Fresh Cilantro or Parsley
- White Pepper
Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze gently in butter. In the mean time check the lentils for small pebbles; wash them. Once the shallot is glazed, add the lentils and heat them for a few minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Gently crush the cilantro seeds a bit and add to the pan. Add the mild fish stock and leave to simmer on low heat. In parallel pan-fry the cod in butter in a non-stick pan. Just before the lentils are ready add half of the finely cut cilantro or parsley to the lentils and mix.
Timing is all. The lentils should be cooked, all fluid evaporated and absorbed and the cod just done. Meaning the cod is opaque and the flakes can be separated easily. And overcooked meaning you can see those small white bits and the fish becomes dry.
Serve the cod on top of the lentils and sprinkle some cilantro or parsley over the lentils and cod. Maybe add a touch of white pepper.