Saffron-Brandied French Lentils

Saffron-Brandied French Lentils

With their beautiful dark green and blue speckled appearance and earthy peppery flavor, Puy lentils ought to be an essential part of your pantry if they aren't already. So named from the Le Puy region of southern France, these little lentils hold together perfectly when cooked and look like nothing other than little brown pearls swimming in bowls of this light and gorgeous saffron-and-brandy perfumed soup. Serve with a green salad for an extraordinary lunch, or with rice and vegetables for a light but satisfying and unique dinner.

Ordinary green or brown lentils may be used if you cannot find the Puy variety, although more care needs to be taken to make sure that the lentils do not turn any more mushy than necessary. Cognac would be nice as well, I'm sure, as the author of the cookbook from whom I've adapted this recipe for vegetarians would suggest. Well, she has a lot more money than I and possibly you do, but a decent affordable French brandy like St-Rémy VSOP will do just as nicely for us mere mortals.

Saffron-Brandied French LentilsSaffron-Brandied French Lentils
Recipe by
Adapted from A Taste of Southern Italy: Delicious Recipes and a Dash of Culture
Cuisine: Italian
Published on April 17, 2008

Simple and elegant saffron and brandy perfumed French lentils simmered with herbs and served with fried bread pieces and a brandy cream

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  • 1 1/4 cup French (Puy) lentils
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small celery stalk, diced
  • 1-inch sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped and crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 1/2-inch slices dense bread, crust removed and cut into small squares
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • Rinse the lentils under cold running water and soak in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 hour. Drain and set aside.

  • Toast the saffron threads in a small pan over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Pour 1 tablespoon of the brandy or cognac into a small heat-proof bowl or cup, stir in the saffron threads, and place in the toasting pan to warm. Stir to dissolve the saffron threads.

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Toss in the celery, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue to stir for 30 seconds, making sure not to brown the garlic.

  • Add the lentils, 3 cups of cold water, tomatoes and the saffron-brandy mixture. Bring the heat up to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, covered, or until the lentils are soft but not falling apart. Remove from heat, and discard the bay leaf and the stem from the rosemary sprig. Add the red wine vinegar and salt, and grind in some black pepper. Taste for seasoning, and set aside to rest.

  • Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan over medium-low heat and add the bread. Sauté on both sides until nicely browned.

  • In a small bowl, beat together the cream, the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of brandy or cognac, and a small pinch of ground cloves with a wire whisk until the cream just begins to thicken.

  • Ladle the lentils into warm bowls, add a fews pieces of the fried bread, and drizzle a spoon or two of the brandied cream over each bowl.

Makes 4 to 6 servings
Saffron-Brandied French Lentils


Anonymous said...

What an unusual way to cook lentils. . . it really elevates them to a new level, doesn't it?

LisaRene said...

Very fancy lentil dish! Elegant! I have never tried toasting saffron threads, I'd be scared they would burn up. I imagine you just need to watch them closely as with any herb.

Why can't restaurants offer vegetarian entrees like this one? How nice would that be.

Peter M said...

Lentils in this fashion will be more prominent in my diet this summer...there are not just for soup anymore...bravo Lisa.

test it comm said...

That looks good. I really want to try eating lentils more.