Every time I make lentils I wonder why I don’t make them more often. They are so simple and quick to make and yet have such a great flavor and texture. My current favorite preparation comes from Heston Blumenthal. The self-taught chef has accomplished a great deal and his Heston Blumenthal At Home cookbook is one I find fascinating and recommend to any advanced cook. Chef Blumenthal prepares his lentils with smoke which was something I had never thought to try. In the book he calls for smoking your own water and though I am not one to take shortcuts it was hard for me to justify the effort when a bottle of liquid smoke was stashed in the pantry. Here is my take on the recipe which delivers some of the most complex flavored lentils I have ever tasted.
Smokey Lentils (adapted from Heston Blumenthal At Home)
400 grams water
100 grams Puy Lentils
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
Sonomic Vinegar (or reduced balsamic-honey)
Add the smoke, carrot, celery, and onion to the water and bring it to a boil. I cut the carrot and celery into big pieces that will be easy to fish out later. Make a sachet with the pepper, thyme, garlic, bay, and cloves and add to the water. When it is at a boil pour the lentils in and then cook at a simmer covered for 15 minutes or so. Taste the lentils to see if they are at the doneness you want then drain. Heston calls for boiling some balsamic vinegar and honey to a syrup but I had some vinegar given to me as a present that tasted a lot like what I thought Chef Blumenthal was aiming at so I used it. Finely chop the shallot and warm it with some olive oil and the vinegar. When it is at a simmer tip the lentils in (having removed the veg and sachet) and mix. Keep cooking, covered until the liquid has been absorbed. Add the chives and then season with salt (smoked if you prefer), pepper, and brighter vinegar (don’t be shy this is important!) to taste. The cookbook calls to make a salad with mustard vinaigrette, radishes, peach puree, and warmed goat cheese. It is divine with these but the lentils taste great by themselves too!