Saturday, May 5, 2018

Lentilles – Lentils. Lentils are all over French Menus. The Lentil in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

Lentils are the oldest known cultivated pulse; the dried edible seeds from the legume family that includes beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils.  Lentils have been grown in France for at least 2,000 years.
France grows many different lentils but five of them will be starring on menu listings. Each offers a different taste and texture. The texture of lentils is important as some quickly lose their shape and almost dissolve; others just assume the flavors of the dishes they are served with.  The following five, except for the most important first, are listed in alphabetical order. These are the lentils that are considered the best for flavor and texture.
Lentilles Vertes du Puy-en-Velay AOC - The blue, green lentils of Puy–en-Velay that have a slightly nutty flavor. Puy-en-Velay is in the department of the Haute Loire in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. With their AOC/AOP rating, these are the most famous lentils in the world.
Lentille Blonde de Saint-Flour – The yellow and slightly sweet lentils of Saint-Flour in the department of Cantal in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
Lentillon Rosé de Champagne - The pink lentils of Champagne, also called the Lentillon Champenoise. Despite their name, these slightly sweet lentils are a light brown. They come from the home of Champagne which since 1-1-2016 is part of the new super region of Hautes de France in the Northeast of France.

Lentilles de Cilaos – Cilaos is a town close to the center of the French island region of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, 800 km east of Madagascar.  Réunion with Saint-Denis as its capital is 9,200 km (5,700 miles) away from France. Nevertheless, this Indian Ocean island is just as much a part of France as Paris, gendarmes direct the traffic, and you may expect a baguette for breakfast.  You will pay for your breakfast and everything else in Euros.

Réunion is also home to the coveted Label Rouge, red label, Ananas Victoria, the Queen Victoria miniature pineapple that is considered the tastiest pineapple in the world. Apart from their highly rated lentils and pineapples, rum is produced on Réunion under a fantastic number of labels.
Lentille Verte du Berry, Label Rouge – The yellow-green lentils from Berry with a mild chestnut flavor. The old province of Berry is in the Centre-Val de Loire.  These are France’s only label rouge, red label lentil. They were the first dried vegetable to be awarded the Label Rouge, the Red Label, for their consistent quality.

Lentilles on French Menus:
Lentilles Vertes du Puy:

Diots de Savoie Fumée aux Lentilles Vertes du Puy aux Épices Douces, Chou Rouge Croquant –   Diot sausages from the departments of Savoie in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, served with the lentils from Puy flavored with sweet herbs and spices and served with crunchy red cabbage.  Diots, are made with steamed or smoked pork and often include cabbage and maize (corn flour) in their ingredients. 
Pavé de Saumon au Lard, Lentilles Vertes du Puy  - A thick cut of salmon lightly fried in bacon and served with the lentils from Puy.
Petit Salé aux Lentilles Verte du Puy –  Salted pork with the lentils  from Puy.  Salted pork entered the French and British kitchens through the foods that could be stored for long sea voyages. Salted pork with lentils is a French comfort food and often on bistro menus.   
Lentille Blonde de Saint-Flour:

The Viaduc de Garabit
Built just15km (9miles) from Saint-Flour
by Gustave Eiffel the man who built the Eiffel Tower.
Poté Auvergnate aux Lentilles Blondes de Saint Flour - Potée Auvergnate is the Auvergne’s Pot-au-Feu, here prepared with lentils from Saint-Flour. Potée Auvergnate may include duck, ham, pork, and pork sausages. 
Saucisse Maison Gratinée au Cantal Doux et Lentilles Blondes de Saint-Flour – A homemade sausage browned under the grill with a young Cantal cheese and the lentils from Saint-Flour. France’s AOP Cantal cheese and the lentils from Saint-Flour come from the department of Cantal in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

Velouté de Lentilles Blondes de Saint-Flour, Chips de Lard Paysan – A velvety textured soup made from lentils from Saint-Flour served with farmhouse style crispy pieces of bacon.

Lentillon Rosé de Champagne:

Roulé de Saumon Fumé Maison et Lentillons Rosé de Champagne – A roll of house smoked salmon filled with the lentils from champagne.
Velouté de Lentillons Roses de Champagne – A velvety lentil soup made with the lentils from Champage.
Salade de Lentillons Roses de Champagne et Hareng Fumé Servie Tiède  - A salad made with the lentils from Champagne served with warm smoked herring.

Lentilles de Cilaos:


Cuisse de Canard Fumée aux Lentilles de Cilaos – Smoked leg of duck served with  Cilaos lentils.
Côtes de Porc Fumées aux Lentilles de Cilaos – Smoked pork chops prepared with Cilaos lentils.
Mijoté de Bœuf aux Lentilles de Cilaos  - Slowly simmered beef served with  Cilaos lentils.

Lentille Verte du Berry IGP:

Lentilles Verte du Berry

Someone checking the origins of these lentils may see that they are grown in Champagne Berrichonne and ask where the vineyards are. Champagne Berrichone is a broad open plain, mostly used for raising cattle and there are no sparkling wines there. Champagne was an old Roman word for a type of soil.

Cappuccino de Lentilles du Berry  - A frothy soup made from the green lentils from Berry. The word cappuccino initially had nothing to with froth on a Cappucino coffee. The name Cappuccino came from the color of the hood of a Capuchin friar's robe. The Italians saw the resemblance and gave cappuccino coffee its name.  Chefs from France, Italy, and elsewhere have gone on to created dishes, mostly soups, and desserts where the word cappuccino indicates froth.    N.B. No serious coffee bar in France or Italy offers a Cappuccino coffee made with whipped cream, only whipped froth.

Ris de Veau Poêlés aux Lentilles Vertes du Berry Veal sweetbreads served with the green lentils of Berry

Salade de Lentilles Vertes du Berry à la Ciboulette et au Vinaigre de Xérès – A salad of the green lentils from Berry prepared with chives and sherry vinegar.
Another lentil on sale in France is called the Lentille Beluga or the Lentille de Caviar.  These lentils are almost entirely round and black and sold by their name's association with caviar.  At a market stall selling all of France's lentils and dried beans, I was told that their reputation is just hype and that they lose their roundness and a lot of their color when cooked.

France with five famous lentils and many others not so famous still does not produce enough for even 50% of the demand.  Nearly all the rest of the lentils, including the caviar lentil, come from Canada.
Lentils in the market
The earliest written recipes for lentils come from ancient Egypt where among the foods left for the dead in the pyramids are lentils. The Egyptians had imported lentils from India and from Egypt they were distributed by the Phoenicians who were the Mediterranean's sea-based wholesalers. Lentils reached Greece and Rome, and those two countries brought lentils to France.  (The Old Testament dish where Esau sold his birthright to Jacob was probably lentils).

Antonin Carême and lentils.

Lentils, in France, since the Middle Ages were associated with the poor. Then Antonin Carême, France’s most famous chef included lentils in his books in the early 19th century and suddenly they were on everyone's tables.  They have stayed on the menus of the poor and rich alike since then.
The book below may be read for free on the website of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, France’s National Library. It may also be downloaded for a minimal charge. 

The Maître d’Hôtel Française shows menu listings from Antonin Carême’s time in England where he was Chef to the Prince Regent, later George IV, and in St Petersburg where he was chef to the Alexander I of Russia and Vienna where he was chef to the British Ambassador. Search it for the dishes, including those with lentils, that Carême served to his royal paymasters.

Amazon sells a facsimile reprint of the original from the1822 edition published in 2010 but it’s still in French.


Link to the French National Library edition:

The second book is the 1903 Le Guide Culinaire written by Escoffier, Gilbert, and Fetu the three most famous chefs of the early  20th century.

Amazon offers an abridged 1979 English translation:
Link to the French National Library edition:

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2018.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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