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Growing up the only lentils we ate were the standard brown ones. It wasn’t until years later as an adult that I first heard about de Puy (French) lentils, and then found out that they seemed to be the go to for chefs, particularly in Europe. I remember one of the first times I tried them was a lovely dish of Jamie Oliver’s pairing salmon with de Puy lentils.

My sister Esther, who spent some time in France, first introduced me to them with a returning gift many years ago, as they have only become readily available locally in more recent years. I’m pretty sure we also came up with this recipe together when she was visiting, as a way of pulling together a quick meal using almost entirely pantry ingredients. If you’re not familiar with de Puy lentils – you might not find them in the supermarket, but most delis or health food shops will stock them, along with the porcini mushrooms.

add lentils and soaked mushrooms to saucepan

If you’ve never used them, a lovely thing I remember from the first time I tried cooking them is how beautiful they are when you rinse them. They have the most amazing speckled colouring, that when wet looks like miniature mossy river pebbles. Unfortunately, like many pulses, the colouring doesn’t stay as vibrant when cooked, but thankfully the flavour makes up for it.

cook until lentils are soft

However, time to admit it – cooked lentils <really> aren’t photogenic! This is probably up there with my family favourite lentils and miso for unprepossessing bowls of brown goop. But, if you can get past the appearance, the flavour is incredible. Rich and earthy and complex, and only five ingredients not counting garnishes! It’s also vegan – you certainly could add cream if you like, but I think it really doesn’t need it, and if you particularly want that super velvety texture you get with cream, you could blend in a high speed stand blender rather than the stick blender to make it perfectly smooth. I would happily eat just this for a quick winter dinner, but it could also make a lovely simple starter to a larger meal.

French lentil and porcini mushroom soup

French lentil and porcini mushroom soup

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large flat mushrooms (about 150g)
  • 200g de Puy (French) lentils
  • 30g dried porcini mushrooms
  • parsley to garnish
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage and 2 slices prosciutto (optional garnish)

Heat oil over low heat in a medium saucepan, and add sliced onion. Add a pinch of salt, and saute gently, covered, until onion is translucent and softened. While onion is cooking, cover porcini with boiling water and soak 10 minutes.

Add sliced mushrooms to onions, increase heat to medium, and saute uncovered for another couple of minutes. Rinse lentils in a sieve, and add to the pan. Stir porcini vigorously to loosen any dirt, then leave to settle for a couple of minutes. Scoop porcini from the soaking water, and add the the pan, then strain the water through a fine sieve to remove any grit, and add as well. Pour in enough additional water to cover.

Bring soup to the boil, then reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, the blend until smooth with a stick blender. Add a little more water if it’s too thick. Serve garnished with chopped parsley (bottom pic), or fried sage leaves and crisp prosciutto (obviously exclude if you’re making this vegan) for a special occasion (top pic).