Over the past few evenings, TC and I sat and watched the series Rick Stein’s French Odyssey which was about, of course, Rick coming to France. What made is special to us was that he not only travelled right through our region, he also did in on a barge on the Canal du Midi. Oh to spend a week or so on one of those beauties in summer!
He actually started up in Bordeaux and travelled down the Garonne and the Canal Lateral to Toulouse before transferring to the Canal du Midi. But anyway, the Canal du Midi brought him right into the Etang de Thau and across to Sete, before moving on to Marseille. Of course he was sampling foods and wine and providing his take on some traditional French dishes along the way.
He obviously filmed the series during summer as the weather was warm and the scenery was green and lush. Being winter, one of his dishes really jumped out at us; more than one did actually, but the first one we wanted to try was Petit Salé, a.k.a. salted pork belly with lentils.
TC gets full credit for this one – he is our main cook while I just pop into the kitchen to play occasionally and bake sweet stuff. We went into our local boucherie yesterday especially for the poitrine de porc for this and it was well worth the wait until dinner tonight.
The pork was melt-in-the-mouth tender and immensely satisfying. The small green lentils, carrots, shallots and celery cooked with it were also delicious and I could almost hear all the cells in my body screaming with joy: “health food!” while I just felt like I was purely indulging my winter-greedy appetite. That’s a win-win situation.
TC’s petit salé aux lentilles
1kg piece pork belly *see notes
6 small carrots, halved
3 sticks celery, cut into 3cm chunks
300g puy lentils
bouquet garni (bay leaves, parsley, thyme and rosemary)*see notes
15g unsalted butter
handful of parsley, chopped
Salt the pork in a shallow baking dish. Rub the salt well into the pork. Turn the meat over and rub into the other side too. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for around four hours.
Rinse the salt from the pork. Place in a deep saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil removing any scum that rises to the surface.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.
Gently stir in the lentils & add the bouquet garni
Leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the vegetables and cook until tender.
Gently remove the pork and cut, lengthwise, into thick, generous slabs.
Add the butter and chopped parsley to the lentils and vegetables and stir through. The water should have all absorbed into the lentils by this stage.
Serve topped with the pork pieces.
Pork: As we were just cooking for 2, TC used about 650g pork belly instead of the whole kilo. There are enough vegetables and lentil in this recipe to serve 4 people if you use 1kg of pork.
Bouquet Garni: TC took a shortcut and used stock concentrate capsules that contain bouquet garni herbs at this point
TC had a hard time finding the Rick Stein recipe, so the above is adapted from one he found on the Jamie Oliver cooking forum here.