JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Petit salé aux lentilles

Do you watch tv when you're pottering in the kitchen? I do; & couple of days ago I was half-watching an old episode of Rick Stein's gastro-journey through France, when his barge stopped at Kate Hill's place in Gascony - it was lovely to see one of my favourite bloggers, her kitchen and her garden. He borrowed her kitchen, and used it to make petit salé (don't know how to get the accent ... can anyone advise?***). Petit salé means lightly salted ... it's mostly pork, but I've also eaten a petit salé of duck breast.

If you consult Elizabeth David on lentilles au petit salé, she's not particularly helpful, as she instructs you to add a "piece of breast of salt pork", as if that's something you can easily find outside France. Rick Stein started with an ordinary piece of pork belly, which he salted himself ... he didn't have much time to spare, so left it to salt for four hours. I was in a different kind of hurry, which meant I salted it one evening to cook the next. This is the kind of forgiving cooking I like; which is to say that either method works fine.

There's another point here: belly of pork is a pretty fatty cut of meat (think streaky bacon) ... there was a time when it was more fat than meat. But the consumer preference for lean meat means that even this cut now has very little fat, although it still needs long slow cooking. I cut the skin off before serving. And I cooked it with lots and lots of vegetables.

Petit salé aux lentilles is traditional French cooking: you cook the meat and lentils, together with carrots, onions, celery and a generous bouquet garni of fresh herbs, then serve it in a soup plate with the cooking liquid. It's the kind of thing you might find on the menu at a Routiers cafe.

Petit salé

a boned half belly of pork
bouquet garni of fresh parsley bay thyme
some small onions
Puy lentils

Salt the pork for at least four hours, or overnight. You need to cover meat liberally, but not thickly. Put it in something non-reactive - I used a plastic box - and leave in the fridge until you're ready to cook.

Wash the salt off. Shake the meat dry. Put it skin side down in a heavy pan (Stein used a le Creuset, I used stainless steel). Cover with cold water, add the bouquet garni, and simmer for 50 minutes.

Turn the meat, then add a couple of handfuls of lentils. After about 15 minutes, add small onions (I used shallots, because that's what there was), chunks of carrot, slices of celery. Rick Stein also added chunks of smoked sausage, but I thought that was unnecessarily gilding the lily - I want to end up with more vegetable than meat on each plate. Carry on simmering until everything is ready .. you want the meat to have been cooking for about an hour and a half in total (so don't turn the carrots into batons).

Remove the meat; peel off the skin; carve into thick slices. Serve in a soup plate with plenty of vegetables and a little cooking juice, together with a garnish of finely chopped parsley. Mmm

PS you may have noticed ED's shift of emphasis in name for this recipe: hers is a lentil dish with meat and no other vegetables, apart from a chopped onion. The method and seasoning is identical.

*** huge thanks to Alex at Eating Leeds for explaining to me the intricacies of the acute accent: I'm putting the explanation + link here for anyone else who is interested, and so that I can refer to it when I need, say, a grave accent, or a ç edilla (I'm showing off now, but, as so often with show-offs, I've got my come-uppance, because I can't make it work without the gap between the c and the rest of the word).

This is what you do:
here's the link to Andy's list of html character codes

OK - on Andy's page you need to look at the very first column, headed
'Entity'. For lower case e-acute it has: eacute.

To get blogger to render this properly ... type & eacute; WITHOUT THE GAP AFTER the &.

You can just type this straight into the normal editing pane. If you want to
check whether or not it will come out properly, just hit the preview button.
Once blogger's previewed it, it will display properly in the normal editing
pane too.

After a while you should find it quite intuitive ... as things like a-grave
are just & agrave; and c-cedilla is & ccedil; etc etc.

Thanks Alex!


gillie said...

mmm delicious. I am fond of belly pork, though the girls prefer me to make it sweet and sticky like spare ribs. This sounds much more up my street.

Peter M said...

I recently caught an episode of Rick Stein (in Spain) and I like his approach to searching for authentic dishes and cooking with the locals.

Alex said...

As far as the accent goes ... you need to use raw html ... so for e-acute ... é.

For a full list, check here!

Alex said...

Um, just realised that my comment didn't work quite as intended. If you can't quite figure out the list of html codes I linked to, please drop me an email!

David Hall said...

I remember it well Joanna, great episode and recipe. And thanks for the link to Kate's site, i didn;t know she had one.


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froggio said...

Here is a classic 'charcutier' recipe for petit salé.
Make a stock for 2.5L brine w/
1/2 head of garlic (not peeled)
1/4 table spoon grated nutmeg
1 clove
1 table spoon sugar
1/2 table spoon pepper
Boil all the above w/ 2.5L water. Cool and filter. Mix in 100g sodium nitrite (pink salt).
Soak meat for 4 days in refrigerator. Wash the meat under cold water and pat dry, et voilà.
Pork cut that can be used: Boston shoulder, belly, shank ends.
Sodium nitrite will keep the meat pink. 4 hours is very short for a petit salé...

Joanna said...

Thank you so much for posting this ... I must try it one day soon. We can't get sodium nitrate here any more, but it doesn't matter if the finished result isn't pink