Lentils have always been a big part of my life. As mentioned in my post on lentil love, I grew up with a mother who cooked lentils with great regularity. Usually it’d be split red lentils, cooked in her lightly spiced, tomato-ed style over rice. Sometimes couscous. I adored that dish. In fact when I saw mum yesterday she handed me a container. Moving fuel. Bless her. But back to the lentil days of my youth…
For special occasions, maybe on the weekends, mum would bring out the French green lentils. She’s got a French provincial cooking thing going on, my mum, and for as long as I can remember has been braising and slow-cooking. French green lentils were a favourite ingredient and remain one of my most beloved to this day, as they hold their texture after cooking, ensuring they’re aesthetically dreamy but moreover, have a beautiful bite to them. For those interested in learning more about lentilles du puy, David Lebovitz has a great blog post on the beauties.
This month in My Mindful Kitchen I have, you guessed it, sourced some lovely legumes. I hadn’t previously thought on where I buy legumes. I knew Mount Zero were doing great things and were a popular brand, but honestly I’d end up favouring cost and buy the regular dried legumes from the supermarket or go for canned convenience. And while I still do use canned legumes pretty frequently, I am super excited to be transitioning to a different product (certainly when it comes to dried legumes) and support rad farming practices employed by passionate, local legume folk. That’s what My Mindful Kitchen is all about.
I was first introduced to Burrum Biodynamics by my friend, Robin. Following her lead, I looked up their website and found myself ridiculously excited about these little protein pebbles grown in the Grampians. And snap, Burrum Biodynamics actually supply Mount Zero Olives with their French green lentils, split red lentils, pearl spelt, pearl barley, split peas and soup mix. I contacted farmer Steve and he was kind enough to answer some questions for me, which I’ve scribed below. Steve and Tania are super happy to talk shop, sharing information about the legumes and grains they grow and how to use them. It’s all about bridging “the gap between farmer and consumer”. Amen.
Its not for me to tell people what they should buy; but the differences for us farming conventionally until 2000 then Demeter Certified are considerable. When we were farming conventionally in the 80’s and 90’s, the crops would have been sprayed at least five times with herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. Now we farm without the use of these chemicals. Working to the Demeter Standard, which is a self sustaining system has improved the soil biological activity and rain water infiltration rates.Most store brought split red lentils have been coated in vegetable oil to make them shiny. We don’t put any oils or additives on ours. Everything we packaged has been grown on our farm, by me.
Storage life is unlimited if they are stored in a cool, dry, airtight place.
Burrum Biodynamics sell through Farmhouse Direct as well as various Farmers’ Markets around Victoria. I really encourage you to give them a go. Their pearl spelt, farro, was a finalist in this year’s Delicious Produce Awards, and their French green lentils are award winning too. There are great things coming from their soil, friends.
With each step I take on this mindful path I am discovering that getting to know your farmer and your food leads to a simpler, a more pleasant shopping, cooking and eating experience. Sure, it takes a bit of investigation at the beginning, but after that it’s a piece of cake. You know what you’re buying, what (and who!) you’re supporting and why it matters…and then you just get to play in the kitchen, making the best lentil and lamb shank soup of your life. And I’m not kidding about this soup, I am officially head over heels in love with this recipe, which was introduced to me by, you guess it, my French lentil loving mum.
Lamb Shank and Lentil Soup (recipe link)
Changes mum and I made to the recipe: we both agree that making the soup at least one day prior to eating it is paramount. Mine sat for two days in the fridge. Letting the flavours develop as it sits leads to an incredibly superior soup and also allows you to scoop the fat off the top and discard it before reheating, ensuring you avoid that greasy lamb shank residue I find to be so common and so displeasing amongst lamb shank recipes. I used very large, very good lamb shanks, along with homemade chicken stock. I also added extra potatoes, lentils and carrot pieces, to bulk it out some. Obviously I used French green lentils instead of brown. And lastly, I took the liberty to add a large crushed garlic clove with the onions and 2 dried bay leaves with the rosemary. This is, by far, my most favourite winter soup. My goodness, it’s good.