Friday, 19 August 2011

Vive le Différence!

Lenticchie Rosse in Agrodolce con Pancetta e Granatina, con Formaggio di Capra e Cetrioli
Sweet & Sour Red Lentil Salad with Grenadine & Bacon and Saignac Goat Cheese and Cucumber

Indeed I have returned from 10 wonderful days in the Provence... sigh! And how incredible it was too! So many amazing sights and sounds... and so much delicious food to be discovered and enjoyed!

There are so many simple and tasty dishes that are perfect for a Summers day- and one of my favorites was the lentil salad, with a hint of Oriental spice and cumin. French cuisine is not always complicated and fussy and in fact it is the simple, regional dishes that taste the best to me. So this evening I raised my Beret and my glass and gave my own salute to the South of France!

For the lentils, I decided to try something a little unusual... but I guess that has become the usual thing that you would expect from me by now. I finely chopped a small shallot, a quarter of a stick of celery and a half of a clove of garlic and heated them up with a handful of finely chopped bacon in a dry Teflon pan. Once the shallot is translucent, add a cupful of lentils and stir them in so that they soak up the juices from the bacon. Sprinkle with a little Raz al Hanut spice if you have it or with some ground cumin and coriander powder if you don't. De- glaze the pan with a shot of Pastis if you have it- failing that, Sambuca or Ouzo will do- depending on how Greek or Italian you are. If you happen to be French, you should have no problems... If you have none of these things, you are in trouble.

My thought was, that by stirring the lentils in a frying pan, rather than heaping them on top of each other in a saucepan, they would not get as "damaged" and therefore remain firmer- and not turn into a sticky mass of red paste and lentil-skins, which is what sometimes happens if you cook them a little too long... and I was right!

Add a teaspoon of Ajvar, a squeeze of tomato paste, a pinch of cayenne and the juice of a whole lime. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper and dress with a little olive oil and honey. Finished! Ready to serve! But no need to rush- this tastes better at room temperature anyway...

The cheese I used was a Saignac goat cheese... mild, creamy and Camembert-like. It softens very quickly at room temperature and is a lovely, gentle, complementing flavor to the spicy lentils. I served it up on a bed of cucumber slices, with a little herb salt and finely sliced spring onion.

So that was supper! Amazingly, I discovered a bottle of Viognier at my supermarket- and that went into the freezer as soon as I got home... and into my glass as soon as supper was ready! If that all sounds as good to you as it tasted for me- I will say Santé and Buon Apetít! Enjoy!

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