French Lentil Soufflé with Star Anise by Chef Michael Smith

Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Total time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes

Servings: 6

France invented cuisine. Many of the world's finest restaurants are French and so is the world's premiere ranking and rating system for cuisine, the stars of Le Guide Michelin. Le Puy-en-Velay is further blessed with surrounding fields of world famous lentils and the eponymous restaurant of Chef Francois Gagnier. Like any great chef, Francois is intensely committed to the products of his region. He served me a 7-course lentil tasting menu in his Michelin-starred restaurant. The whole meal was inspiring but the last course blew me away. Imagine a classic light soufflé, anchored with earthy lentils, enhanced with aromatic vanilla and bound together with mysteriously harmonious star anise! This recipe is from the France webisode of Lentil Hunter with Chef Michael Smith.

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Chef Michael Smith

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    6 6-ounce ramekins

    2 oz (60 g) soft butter

    2 Tbsp (60 mL) granulated sugar

    1 cup (250 mL) French green lentils

    3 cups (750 mL) water

    1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar

    1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) salt

    1 tsp (5 mL) star anise powder (nutmeg or cinnamon also work well)

    6 large eggs

    1/4 cup (60 mL) flour

    2 Tbsp (30 mL) butter

    2 Tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice

    1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

    1/4 tsp (5 mL) cream of tartar

    1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and position a rack in lower third of oven. Prepare inside and rim of ramekins by brushing with a generous coat of soft butter then thoroughly sprinkling with white sugar, about a teaspoon or so each. Tilt mold around to evenly distribute the sugar then invert and tap out the excess.
  2. In a small sauce pot add lentils, sugar, water and salt. Over highest heat, while stirring gently, bring to a full, furious boil. Adjust heat, lowering to a slow, steady simmer. Cover and continue cooking until lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in star anise, preserving its aromatic flavour by adding it last.
  3. While lentils simmer, separate eggs carefully. It’s essential that not even one small drop of yolk stray into the whites, so it’s best to work with one egg at a time. Use one bowl for yolks, another bowl for the one-at-a-time white from each egg and one bowl for all previous whites.
  4. Transfer almost all hot lentils to food processor bowl, reserving a heaping spoonful for garnish. Add butter, lemon juice and vanilla. Puree until lentils are smooth and have cooled noticeably. Check temperature with your finger, it should be warm but not hot. If it’s still steamy hot, it will cook the egg yolks prematurely. If you can hold your finger in for a few seconds or longer, then you’re good to go.
  5. Add egg yolks and flour and puree again, until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the reserved whole lentils for garnish. Rest at room temperature while you ready the remainder of the dessert.
  6. Make sure bowl of your stand mixer is spotless. It’s essential that no oil or fat lingers from previous use, just a drop will impede the rising of the egg whites. A few drops of lemon juice or any vinegar and a vigorous wipe with a paper towel will help. Add whites and whip away at full speed until they’re foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whipping until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and continue until peaks are stiff but not dry.
  7. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/3 of whites into lentil puree. Gently fold remainder of whites into lentil puree. Pour batter into each ramekin and smooth and level top with a spatula blade.
  8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until soufflés are risen and set. Serve immediately with excellent vanilla ice cream!