Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lentils, lentils lentils (and a soup with Tuscan kale and pancetta turns into a warm winter salad with oranges)


Lentils are small, lentils are round,
lentils are red, yellow and brown.

I like them in soups and burgers for sure,
I love them as curry, vegan and more!

I like them warm, I like them cold,
I like them fried or a couple days old.

They make sense as a snack, they are perfect in salad,
I love them, adore them and wrote them this ballad.

There may be no scoop
on lentils in soup,
but they still make you want
to jump through a hoop!

And just in case you don't already know,
here are two things about them before you go:
Thing 1: protein, fiber and iron make them healthy,
Thing 2: Italians believe they make you wealthy.

Just try them,
just eat them,
just have some already.
They are good, they are great,
it is never too late!


I admit my reading several Dr. Seuss books to my son last night contributed to this post, but lentils also just happen to be something I get childishly excited about.
Yesterday, like so many other times, I cleaned a big, bright orange carrot, I cut a couple of stalks of celery, peeled a clove or garlic and an onion and prepared a mirepoix which I sauteed in some olive oil until the little chunks turned shiny and translucent. I added a bay leaf, and a handful of diced pancetta and let it brown slightly before adding the rinsed lentils and water. I lowered the flame, covered the pot and let the magic begin.
A couple of hours and few more cups of water later, the lentils were soft yet still slightly toothsome, the water had turned into a dark, earthy, savory broth and the kitchen was warm and smelled delicious. I added a good pinch of salt and some chopped up Tuscan kale (but you can use spinach, Swiss chard or any other leafy green).

I seasoned it with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes I will add some grated Parmesan cheese, but this time it was perfect just the way it was, those little nuggets of smokey goodness from the pancetta satisfying me one hundred percent.
The left over soup turned into a delicious salad for lunch, so much so that I am still wondering why I never paired oranges and lentils before. Think slightly warm lentil quenelles,  the chew from the pancetta and the cool sweetness of the orange segments, highlighted by their zest. I think some crumbled feta cheese, small black olives or thinly sliced red onion - perhaps pickled? - would work great in this too.


So before I go all Dr. Seuss on you again, just go and make some!


I always make pulses in large batches so I have enough for several meals. The amount of pancetta may seem very small for 500gr but I was just looking for a hint of pork flavor. You can easily skip this step if you are vegetarian/vegan, but if you are making the salad I would suggest adding a salty ingredient with some texture to contrast with the lentils and citrus (olives, capers, feta cheese).*

*Psst! I think I just found the perfect ingredient (10-minute pickled carrots) to add to this dish over at Lorraine's!

500gr/17oz. brown lentils
125gr/4 oz. pancetta, diced (smoked or regular)
5-6 leaves Tuscan kale, chopped
1 large carrot
2 stalks celery
1 medium-sized yellow onion
1 large garlic clove
1 bay leaf
olive oil

Salad (serves 4)
1 orange, peeled and segmented
orange zest
orange,lemon or lime juice
olive oil

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot, enough to cover the base.
Finely chop the celery, carrot, onion and garlic and sauté in the hot oil until slightly soft. Add a bay leaf and then the pancetta cubes (if you are vegan/vegetarian, skip this step) and let brown a bit.
After rinsing the lentils, put them in the pot and add as many cups of water as you need to cover them and some more. The lentils soak up a lot of water during the cooking process, so you may have to add some.

Bring to a boil, cover and cook on a low flame for up to two hours, or until the lentils are tender. Add salt towards the end, so the lentils don't get tough and adjust for liquid, according to how liquid you like your soup.
Chop up a few leaves of Tuscan kale and cook with lentils until tender. Take the soup off the heat and let sit for a few minutes. Serve with freshly ground black pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil.
If you did not make the soup very liquid, during the night the lentils will have soaked up the excess liquid . Otherwise, drain the lentils the next day and slightly warm them up or let them come to room temperature. Zest, peel and segment an orange. Shape the lentils into quenelles  and alternate them with the orange segments. Season with lots of freshly ground pepper, olive oil, orange or lemon juice and the zest you set aside.
Add thinly sliced fennel, red onion, crumbled feta cheese or anything else that appeals to you. Perhaps some salty black olives? Coriander, parsley, mint anyone? Slivered, toasted almonds? That is up to you... just promise you will tell me about it in the comments.


  1. This is a comforting, delicious looking dish! Hehe I promise that the pickled carrots are SO good! I'm going to make a new batch once this one runs out. I get excited about lentils too! My parents who never grew up eating them had them for the first time and they were surprised at how tasty they were :)

    1. There are so many ways you can go with lentils, depending on what you have on hand, and the result is usually really good no matter what. I was however pleasantly surprised by the lentil/orange combo. Can't wait to try the carrots!

  2. I had lunch at Semilla yesterday in Paris and as part of the entrée they served a beautiful cup of lentil soup. I don't have a good one in my recipe box, so will definitely give yours a whirl. thanks!

    1. Hi and welcome! Who knows if I can compete with Semilla? ;o)
      What I do know for sure is that (as I wrote Lorraine above) it is hard to go wrong with lentils and whatever ingredient you have around! Let me know!

  3. Lentils were my favorite growing up and they still are. Nothing quite so comforting as a good bowl of lentil soup!

  4. My better half has just started allowing dried legumes to enter our diets. I am thrilled - and this soup sounds so perfect for us. Really lovely recipe. And lentils with oranges Who knew? ~ David


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