Although often overlooked and thought of as boring, lentils are a brilliant addition to a dish, whether you’re looking for a veggie option, or a substantial side for meat or fish, says Garry Watson, chef proprietor of Gordon’s Restaurant in Inverkeilor.
Lentils are one of the oldest sources of food and are used in all types of cooking, from French to Indian and British. As well as being tasty and filling, lentils are packed with protein, calcium and B vitamins, perfect if you’re planning a healthier lead-up to summer.
I often served lentils in the restaurant and one of my favourites is puy lentils with confit duck leg: sprinkle 4 large duck legs with sea salt, add leaves from four sprigs of thyme, then place in the fridge for an hour.
Preheat oven to 160C. Put the duck legs and 500g of duck fat in a pan and heat gently until simmering. Transfer to a shallow casserole, cover and place in the oven for about 2 hours or until you can loosen the leg bone fairly easily.
Meanwhile cook 300g of puy lentils in the chicken or vegetable stock for 35 minutes until just tender, leave to cool. Dice 1 small celeriac and 2 carrots then blanch in salted water until just tender then strain.
Take a heavy-based pan and add 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil. Fry off 100g of smoked bacon lardons until very crispy. Add the diced vegetables, lightly colour in the pan with the bacon. Drain lentils keeping a little of the liquid back and add the lentils. Add some of the liquid and 25g butter, and heat reducing the liquid down to sauce consistency, season and serve with chopped flat parsley to taste.
Drain the legs and dab with kitchen paper set aside. Strain the fat and use for sautéing potatoes and other uses – it’s delicious. Heat a dry heavy-based pan and, when hot, cook legs skin side down for a few minutes to crisp the skin. Spoon lentils in a shallow bowl and place the duck on top.
Prepare confit duck in larger batches and once cooked you can place the legs in a container, cover with the strained fat and fit with a tight-fitting lid. These will keep for up to 1 month in the fridge. When required, again crisp up in a pan then place in a hot oven until thoroughly heated through.