The lentil is a small but powerful little thing. I haven't thought about the little legume too much but I realized I always have a pack of lentils sitting in my pantry that I'll make into a stew, soup or a cold salad at least once a week. It's probably something I've eaten more of than anything else. That small French green lentil 'lentil de puy' that almost looks like a mini caper with tiny black spots is my favorite. They take less time to cook than brown lentils, they keep their shape better than regular brown lentils and don't fall apart after a few reheats, and they also have a more earthy subtle mineral flavor which I love. They are also loaded with soluble fiber which regulates glucose and cholesterol levels, and are high in iron which is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies (all you ladies especially). If I were a vegetarian trying to eat meat again, I would want to tuck into these and work my way up from there. There's a subtle meatiness to their little shape that I like.
At The Spotted Pig we made simple warm lentils alongside cabbage and a beautiful piece of meat called bathchap, which is the pork cheek and jowl shaped into a roll and wrapped tight in cheese cloth, cut into inch medallions the width of a burger, smoked, slow braised, breaded, and fried. The result is a small trip to heaven and rich meat and bits of gelatinized warm fat and tangy mustard. Sit it on top of some cabbage and lentils and the result is just a trip to hog heaven and that is all!
I got the lentil addiction going through recipe books of Jaime Oliver. He finishes his lentils off with a few glugs of apple cider vinegar but I started doing mine with good balsamic vinegar and I noticed it has a more rich almost baked bean quality. I've been modifying my technique bit by bit ever since. Once you have this basic method down, much like how you can play on a good risotto, your options here are endless. Feel free to add things like chorizo, mushrooms, barley, smoked salmon, seared scallops, or a soft-boiled egg, which I prefer. I started soft boiling my eggs and keeping them in my fridge when I got the itch. Take a knife into the egg and the warm oozy yolk with a dash of sea salt falls perfectly into the lentils and bacon.
Warm Lentils with a 6 Minute Egg
3 carrots, peeled and small dice
3 stalks celery, small dice
3 shallots, rough chop or 1 large onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, rough chop
1/4 pound thick cut sliced bacon, cut into inch squares
2 cups uncooked french lentils
6 cups beef stock, or any preferred stock
4-5 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
Handful fresh rosemary and thyme, stems removed and rough chop
6 organic eggs, at room temp (sit them on the counter for 30 mins)
Handful fresh sage leaves, stems removed
1 stick unsalted butter
Sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste
In a saucepan, heat up your beef stock. Put a high wide sided large sauté pan on medium high heat, toss in your bacon and let it cook evenly until nice and crispy brown, but not burnt. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel and reserve half the fat drippings. Add your carrot, celery, shallot, and garlic and sweat it out until translucent and shallot turns almost light brown. Add lentils and chopped thyme and rosemary and stir, cooking for 5 more minutes to wake up the lentils (as they've been dormant for a little bit). While the stock is simmering, add it to the lentils and stir. The stock should cover it by at least a 1/2 inch. Turn the heat up and just let it do its thing for another 20-25 minutes. Taste the beans. You should be able to bite through it with no effort. Stir in your balsamic; turn off the heat and cover. When ready to serve, give a stir. If they need a little more stock or water don't be afraid to get it to the consistency you want. Place your egg on top and slice through, and top it with a few pieces of bacon and sage and there you have it...a full complete lean protein packed meal fit for a Brit. Serve with salad or good crusty bread.
How to Perfectly Soft Boil an Egg
The perfect soft-boiled egg is cooked anywhere between 5-7 minutes depending on how you like it. I prefer right in the middle at around 6 minutes. Give it a try. It should have a firm, almost custardy white and a slightly runny yolk. Once you complete this simple task and taste your reward after, if you're like me, you'll want to have one every day.
Have an ice bath and slotted spoon or hand strainer ready and bring a saucepan filled halfway up with water to a boil. Add a dash of salt and vinegar (white or cider) to the water, which ends up loosening the shell from the egg for easier peeling. Once water comes to a boil lower the temperature down to a gentle rolling simmer. Now's the time to gently lower the eggs in one at a time making sure they don't crack on the bottom. Set your timer for 6 minutes. (hint: 5 minutes will leave the yolk runny and 7 minutes will leave the yolk barely set). I'm a 6 minute man myself. Gents, this is the type of thing that'll get you a girlfriend, so pay close attention :) Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, put them on ice bath for 30 seconds and peel. At this point you can save them in your fridge or slice through it straight away and tuck in!
Crispy Sage (optional)
Have a paper towel and tongs handy. In a sauté pan, heat your butter on medium till it melts and almost starts to turn brown. Now toss in as many leaves into the hot butter without overcrowding. They will start to fry up in whatever shape they land in the pan, so try and keep them relatively flat. In a few minutes they'll turn dark green and crisp. Without having them break, carefully remove the leaves onto a paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. At Spotted Pig for garnish on the rich 'gnudi' we added crispy sage but, much like the egg, it goes well with almost anything and will keep for a while.
Happy Cooking, guys. Until next time, keep an eye out for the next post covering our overnight adventures in Big Sur country with my favorite travel mate Alicia Monica on our trip through California’s pristine Central Coast. Deetjens, hot springs, best raw sushi, sea salty air, seals barking under the moon, it's epic. This aint no rocky coastal road in Ireland either. This 90 mile stretch from San Simeon to Monterey is right up in your backyard and it's quite the experience.