Sausage and Lentil casserole

Sausages & LentilsIs there any foodstuff more comforting than a plate of sausages? Gently fried to a caramelized brown, juicy within and sticky without, they have to be one of the greatest culinary inventions of all time. With the last sunshine of the year well and truly behind us, that most British of pursuits: incinerating sausages on a barbie whilst getting horribly sunburnt, has been laid to bed and it’s all gone terribly grey and miserable here in London.

Grim weather overhead, after a sausage-making workshop with fourth-generation master butcher Keith Fisher and the lovely PR team behind the forthcoming British Sausage Week (1-5th November), what I really fancied doing with my beautifully handcrafted sausages was something altogether more warming, and this sausage and lentil dish fit the bill perfectly.

This recipe really cries out for a good old-fashioned pork sausage, divine in its meaty simplicity.

Ingredients – serves 2 hungry people

  • 6 good butcher’s pork sausages
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 125g Puy Lentils
  • 2 small red onions, diced
  • 1 beef stock cube (‘fresh’, dried, or homemade)
  • 3 tbsp spiced tomato chutney *
  • 1 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 3 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal into shards
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 60ml white wine or cider
  • Natural yoghurt, to serve

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a saucepan that has a tightly-fitting lid and fry the onion on a high heat until starting to collapse and take on colour. Add the garlic, herbs and chilli, and cook for a further minute or two. Pour in the lentils and stir well so they are thoroughly coated and shiny with the oily onion mix. Add the stock cube and 400ml water, put a lid on and bring to a simmer. Cook over a gentle heat for around 30mins, until the lentils are just al dente, you may need to add a little extra water to achieve this – whatever you do don’t let the lentils scorch for lack of water!

Meanwhile, fry the sausages gently in a pan with plenty of oil to stop them sticking, I like to cook sausages in a pan only just big enough to hold them. Get them good and brown all over on a high heat first, then turn the heat right down, and gently cook them until they are cooked through the middle (20-30 mins depending on how crowded your pan is and how thick your bangers are).

When the lentils are just about done, remove the lid and stir in the chutney, vinegar and spring onions and leave uncovered over a medium heat whilst you finish the sausages, stirring occasionally. Remove the sausages to a warm plate and pour the wine or cider into the frying pan, along with the Worcestershire sauce. Turn the heat up high and scrape the pan to get any yummy sticky residue mixed into the liquid, and reduce until dark and syrupy. Taste for seasoning and add pepper, and salt if it needs it.

Serve the sausages drizzled with the reduction from the pan, with a big heap of lentils on the side. Dollop spoonfuls of yoghurt on the lentils, tuck in, and feel the warmth spread to your fingers and toes.

***I use a homemade chutney, made from fresh tomatoes and a blend of ginger, coriander, chilli, allspice and bay; but if my annual supply has run out I’m just as happy reaching for a store-bought equivalent. Look for something which has a nice blend of fruity tomato flavour and warming heat, such as Sainsbury’s ‘warm & spicy’ tomato chutney, or Mr Vikki’s Tomato & Nigella chutney. Once you’ve opened the jar, don’t let it slowly go mouldy in your refrigerator – try it smeared in a cheese sandwich, dolloped in a faijita instead of salsa, or added to a hastily-cooked casserole to add depth.

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2 thoughts on “Sausage and Lentil casserole

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