This French lentil soup is slow-cooked for hours with clove-studded onions and poured over yesterday’s bread, for a comforting and hearty meal. To be served with a dollop of home-made crème fraiche on top.
French lentil soup is so iconic, but most people don’t know that it comes in different versions – depending on the French region it is made.
This delicious version originates from Cantal, a department lying in the middle of France’s central volcanic plateau, in beautiful Auvergne. Originally, this soup was meant to be prepared with lentils from St-Flour. This unique variety of small blond lentils is grown locally and beloved for its lovely sweetness (so much so, it is known as “the poor’s caviar”).
Here, in my little Canadian kitchen, I had to make a switch (since these lentils are not available here) and decided to opt for Eston lentils – also referred to as French-style Green lentils. They are small and lightly sweet, packed in protein and ideal for thickening soups. They were simply perfect!
This soup is so easy to prepare, you basically throw all your ingredients in a big pot – a cast-iron or crock-pot – and let it cook slowly for at least two hours.
Unlike most French lentil soups that include celery, this one relies on sage and cloves (poked into the onions) to create a uniquely aromatic broth.
The soup then gets poured over a slice of old bread (from yesterday), which will absorb all the delicious broth and thicken the soup.
Placing a slice of bread at the bottom of your soup bowl is a trick that the French have always loved to do. It’s a great way to make use of leftover bread (the French hate to waste bread!) and a very easy way to turn a little soup into something more substantial.
Served with a dollop of home-made crème fraiche on top, it’s a perfect dinner soup!
- I haven’t peeled the potatoes for the soup (I gave them a nice scrub beforehand). Because they boil for two hours, the skin becomes very tender, and I feel it adds a touch of earthiness to the broth. But you can peel the potatoes if you’re not a fan of the skin.
How to serve it:
- Before serving, place a slice of yesterday’s bread into each bowl and pour the soup over it.
- Place a dollop of crème fraiche on top (and add another slice of bread on top, if you’re extra hungry).
How to make your own Crème Fraiche:
Combine 1 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk in a glass container. Cover and let stand at room temperature (about 70°F) for 8 to 24 hours, or until very thick. Stir well before covering and refrigerate for up to 10 days
French Lentil Soup with yesterday's BreadPrint This
200g Eston Lentils
2 large onions
1 celery stalk
3 sage leaves
2 medium-sized potatoes
4 slices of yesterday’s bread
4 tablespoons of crème fraiche
Peel the carrots. Coarsely chop the carrots, potatoes, leak and celery.
Peel the onions and cut them in half. Poke each half with 2 cloves.
Throw everything in a cast iron or crockpot with the sage leaves, and cover with 1.5 liters of cold water. Throw the lentils in, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer, cover with a lid and let simmer for 2 hours.
If you can, check on the pot occasionally to make sure there is still enough water. Stir If needed, and add a splash of water. After two hours, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour over the slices of bread and top off with crème fraiche.
This recipe is translated and adapted from the book “Les carnets de Julie: Julie cuisine la France… chez vous!” by Julie Andrieu.