As Anglo-Italians, my family ate lentils for New Year’s Eve, traditionally served to bring wealth and good fortune. On first impressions I cannot imagine anything less bling than a lentil; yet what they evoke in me is a great sense of comfort and wellbeing, which is just what I need now.
At new year, they are supposed to side up to cotechino, a fat sausage laced with spices, and quite delicious. Instead, I’ve adapted a southern Italian dish of sausages and lentils. With careful cooking you will understand their status.
It’s your basic soffritto-style start as much as the sausage that imparts the substantial flavour base needed to make this dish special. Tend to it carefully, adding the liquid in small amounts.
celery 2 sticks
fennel ½ bulb
unwaxed lemon 1
garlic 3 cloves, chopped finely
bay leaves 5
Italian sausages 800g (preferably 100% pork with no rusk)
brown lentils 300g (puy at a push)
potatoes 2, medium, peeled and cut into eighths
cinnamon ½ stick
tomato passata 4 tbsp
To make a soffritto, dice the celery, carrot and fennel fairly small, almost lentil size. Begin to sweat them over a medium heat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil with a pinch of salt.
Wash the lemon, quarter and cut the segments into three pieces each. Rinse the lentils in a sieve.
Add the garlic to the soffritto, followed by the bay leaves. Squeeze pieces of sausage meat from their skins straight into the pot. Add the lentils, potatoes, lemon, cinnamon and passata, and then cover with an inch of cold water. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer.
Cook adding cupfuls of water when needed. In this dish, the lentils should be completely soft, not al dente. This will take about 50 minutes.
Turn the heat off, check the seasoning and add a liberal glug of olive oil.