Halfway between a soup and a stew, this comforting dish will warm you up on chilly winter nights and satisfy you for several hours.
Try to find Beluga lentils, small, black and firm lentils that don’t lose their shape and keep a firm texture when cooked. Their name comes from their resemblance with beluga caviar, of course. I find it is much harder to overcook them, and harder to turn to mush. To avoid ending up with a black broth, bring them to boil and discard the water as instructed below. If Beluga lentils are unavailable, substitute French Puy lentils, a green variety with similar characteristics. You will find both varieties in specialty food shops. In Ottawa, they are available at Grace in the Kitchen, in Kanata.
I added turnips to this recipe simply because sausages and turnips complement each other very well. Replace the zucchini and turnips with kale added towards the end of cooking and you have another dish completely. Enjoy with a glass of Chianti.
Lenticchie con polpettine
300 g (about 2 1/2 cups) Beluga lentils, washed and picked
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium zucchini, cut in quarters lengthwise, then finely chopped crosswise
3 small turnips, peeled and cut into 1 cm squares
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1.5 litre (6 cups) water
4 sausage links, casings removed
salt and pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
- Wash the lentils several times in cold water and remove impurities. Put in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil and let it boil for 30 seconds. Drain, discard water and rinse again under cold water. Set aside.
- In a large pot over medium heat, cook the onion, celery and carrot in the olive oil until the onion is soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add the zucchini and the diced turnip and cook for another five minutes.
- Add the lentils, the water, the tomato paste and the bay leaves and bring to boil. Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, partially covered, for 25 minutes.
- During that time, remove the casings from the sausages and form small balls of sausage meat. I like them about 1 cm (1/2 inch) in diameter, but make them as big or as small as you like.
- After 25 minutes of cooking, add the sausage meatballs and the thyme and cook for another five minutes, covered.
- Taste, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve in warm bowls with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and eat with a good slice of crusty bread.