Crème de lentilles

Creamy lentil soup

The chef who contributed this recipe, Rodolphe Paquin of Le Repaire de Cartouche, says he never uses black pepper — “it affects the taste too strongly” — and prefers piment d’espelette, a mild dried red pepper from the Basque country. If you can find that, add a pinch. If not, don’t worry, as this soup is so delicious it actually needs no pepper at all.

1 cup (200 g.) lentils
3 cups (75 cl) water
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 branch of thyme, or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1-3/4 cup (45 cl) heavy cream
2 cups (1/2 liter) water or homemade chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pinch piment d’espelette (optional)
2-4 slices bread for making croutons

1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. minced parsley, preferably flatleaf

Peel and quarter the onion. Peel and halve the garlic. Measure the lentils and rinse them in a sieve under running water.

Put the lentils in a soup pot with 3 cups (75 cl) water and the onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cook gently for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

While the lentils are cooking, make the croutons: Preheat the oven to a high temperature (gas mark 7, 425 F, 220 C). Cut the bread into cubes the size of dice. Place them in a pie pan, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 3 minutes. Give the pan a shake and bake for 3 minutes more, or until the croutons are toasted. Be careful, because this can go very quickly and you don’t want the croutons to burn.

When the lentils are ready, remove the bay leaf and thyme branch. Purée, using a hand blender or countertop blender. Set aside.

In a small pot, heat 1 cup (25 cl) cream to boiling. Again, be careful: It takes the cream a while to heat up, but when reaches boiling point it will rise and happily boil over. Add the boiled cream to the lentils and blend again. Add 2 cups water or chicken broth and the salt. Blend one more time.

Set a colander over a fresh pot and pour the soup through it, using a spoon to press the lentils through the holes. You will be left mainly with the husks of the lentils, which you may discard or reserve for another use.

In a small bowl, whip the remaining cream (3/4 cup/20 dl). Stir the whipped cream into the soup and reheat gently.

Serve the soup in individual bowls topped with a few croutons and a little parsley. Serves 3-4.

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