Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, offers a gorgeously simplistic and delightful outlook on life and food. Don’t get caught up on the book’s title if it rubs you the wrong way, she’s all about quality, pleasure and reason. After reading her book I felt a great spark of interest to visit Alsace, France, her hometown (Champaign and oysters?! Yes, please!) Inspired by Mireille, my husband and I took our bicycles to France for a three-week honeymoon and rode throughout five regions. We started in Paris, took the train to Alsace and ended in Léon. The trip was pure magic, filled with adventure and hilarious mishaps. I would not attempt that type of a trip with a kiddo, but it was the perfect honeymoon for us.
This lentil soup recipe from Guiliano’s book is enlivened by a whole onion studded with clove.
Adapted from French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano.
Foodie note: Leaving the clove studded onion in the soup for leftovers will result in a deeply flavored broth that build as the days go by. If you have trouble poking the clove into the onion, make little slits around the onion with a paring knife then retrace your path inserting whole cloves. If using a ham hock, ask the meat department staff to cut it into smaller pieces if it’s too large when buying at the grocery store. You can substitute with a different meat such as chicken sausage if you steer clear of pork.
Serves 8 (and freezes beautifully)
2 cups caviar lentils
10 cups water
~3/4 lb ham hock
1 cup diced carrot (about 3 carrots)
1 cup diced celery (about 3 ribs)
1 cup diced leek (about 1 large leek) – here is a helpful video about cleaning leeks
1 yellow onion studded with ~25 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
- Cut carrot, celery and leek into similar sized pieces, about 1″ dice. Set aside.
- Pour lentils in a large soup pot with 10 cups of water. Add ham hock and bring to a boil.
- Add vegetables, clove studded onion, bay leaf, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper to pot. Bring to a boil again, then drop to a simmer with the lid partially covering the pot. Cook for 1 hour.
- Remove the ham hock and let cool until you’re able to handle it. Pat dry if it seems hard to get leverage. Be careful not to cut yourself this is the tricky part – using a sharp knife, cut away the meaty bits from the bone. Chop the meat to pieces the size of the vegetables. Put ham back into the soup pot.
- Melt butter in a small bowl, whisk in flour and add to soup pot. Stir to thicken. Add additional salt/pepper if needed.