February 28th, 2011
I was given a pressure cooker in 1982 and one of the first recipes I tried was red lentil soup. For some reason I was compelled to add sausages and this is the recipe that has evolved from it – a casserole, rather than a soup.
Sausage and Lentil Casserole recipe:
1 lb Cumberland sausages (I’m sure you could substitute any good sausage)
1/2 lb red lentils
1 large onion (chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
1 leak (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
4 pieces of streaky bacon (chopped)
2 medium to large tomatoes (blanched and peeled)
1 pint home made chicken stock
1 glass red wine
1 tablespoonful red wine vinegar
1 desert spoonful of tomato purée
1 small squirt of anchovy paste
2 bay leaves
a good slug of extra virgin olive oil
a few sprigs of rosemary, sage and thyme, ground in a mortar and pestle, with a pinch of course sea salt and 8 black peppercorns
If you use a large cast iron casserole, the whole cooking process can be done in a single vessel, other than blanching the tomatoes. For blanching, heat some water in a small saucepan and when it boils, drop the tomatoes in for about 2 minutes. The idea is to soften the skin, to make it easy to peel, as opposed to cooking. Once the skin has blistered, the tomatoes can be rinsed with cold water to stop any cooking, the skin can be easily removed and they can be set aside for later use. If you feel excessively lazy, use a tin of plum peeled tomatoes.
Start by cooking the sausages in olive oil. I don’t suppose the sausages need cooking, as they’d cook perfectly well at the end, however, they’d look a bit anaemic and the browning process does add some caramel flavour to the dish. I strongly recommend using some good sausages (mine came from the butcher), I would imagine saucisse de Toulouse would be excellent for this.
When the sausages have browned, remove them to a plate and replace them with the onion – the bacon can be included, once the onion has gone translucent. Next, stir in the remaining vegetables to give them a good coating of oil. Chop up the peeled tomatoes if they are firm, or squash them into the mixture with a potato masher if they are soggy – either way, add the tomatoes and stir.
Once the vegetables are cooking, the ground herbs, purée and anchovy paste can be stirred in, closely followed by the stock, red wine, red wine vinegar and bay leaves. Before adding the lentils, rinse them in a sieve, under the cold tap. When washed, the lentils can be stirred in too – if the casserole doesn’t seem liquid enough (see my picture below), you can add a glass of water or a little more wine, since the lentils need to absorb a bit of liquid. Return the sausages to the casserole and push them into the mixture with a spoon. Place the lid on the casserole and remove it to a preheated oven at 100º C for about an hour.
I suggest that you taste the dish after 30 minutes and add a little salt and pepper if necessary. At this point check it’s not too dry – add a little water if you think it needs it, but not too much. Red lentils will cook quite quickly if boiled (about 20 minutes), but take longer when cooked slowly in the oven – if cooked long enough they will practically dissolve, though in this case they should just be tender. I prefer the taste and texture of red lentils to Puy lentils in this, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use either (just remember that Puy lentils need a bit more cooking time).
When done, serve the sausage and lentil casserole with toasted sour dough bread, or even better, toast spread with roasted garlic.