When I visited my sister in London a few years ago, she gave a little booklet of recipe excerpts from Jamie's Italy that came with the paper. I confess I am not a big Jamie Oliver watcher-too much saliva for me. But his recipes are reliably good and they do inspire my husband to give cooking a go which can only be a good thing. I've cooked the eggplant parmigiana from this book too and it's great although eggplant, cheese and tomato can't go wrong as a combination (unless of course McDonalds fiddled with it). I even bought a copy of this book for a friend of mine who is Italian-perhaps in the hope that she'll cook some dishes for me!
After having a couple of "sausages and lentils" dishes in Paris, I wanted to try some of my own, albeit these would have an Italian flavour rather than a French one. I didn't use Italian sausages as specified in the recipe but I had some great coarse grind Lamb, leek, thyme and mint ones. After watching an episode of "The F Word" where they discuss the minimum amount of meat that actually needs to go into a sausage (from a frightening 30% to the highest 66% for a gourmet variety in the UK) I have become a bit of a tray flipper carefully examining the % of meat in the sausages I buy. These are thankfully 76% meat and are by the "Coles finest" brand. Of course the packet doesn't tell you know how much connective tissue is used but I am hoping not too much, especially if its a coarse grind sausage where the meat needs to be a touch more obvious.
And as you can probably tell I didn't use green lentils as I only had brown lentils. I boiled them with 6 garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves and 3 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and a fat pinch of salt and then tossed them in the oil that came out of the sausages.
Salsicce con lenticchie verdi e salsa di pomodoro (sausages and green lentils with tomato salsa)
8 medium-sized good-quality Italian sausages, or good fat Cumberlands
1 pound, 2 ounces purple-sprouting broccoli or cima di rapa
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A small handful of fresh thyme tips
For the salsa rossa
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 small stick of cinnamon
1-2 small dried red chilies, crumbled
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus extra for dressing
2 (14 ounce) cans of good-quality plum tomatoes
For the lentils
14 ounces lenticchie di Castelluccio or Puy lentils
2 cloves of garlic, peeled (I used 6 cloves)
1 bay leaf
A handful of fresh flatleaf parsley, leaves chopped, stems reserved
Red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (I used 3 teapoons of balsamic vinegar)
Step 1 - First things first; get your salsa on the go. Put a little olive oil into a pan, add the onion and sliced garlic, throw in the cinnamon stick and a good crumbling of chili, and fry on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and sweet. Now turn the heat up and add your red wine vinegar it will steam and might even make you cough but this is a normal reaction! Then turn the heat down to low and add your canned tomatoes, chopped up. Simmer slowly for half an hour while you get on with your lentils.
Step 2 - Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the lentils into a pot, cover them with water, and add the 2 whole cloves of garlic, the bay leaf, and some tied-up stems from the parsley. Simmer for around 20 minutes, making sure that you've got enough liquid covering the lentils. Toss your sausages in a little olive oil and put them in a roasting pan in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until golden and crisp. Drop your broccoli into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes when the sausages come out of the oven. When done, drain in a colander and toss in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and some extra virgin olive oil.
Step 3 - Once the lentils are cooked, remove the parsley stems and bay leaf and pour away most of the water from the pot. Mash the garlic cloves up with a spoon, mix in with the lentils, and dress them using 4 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil and 1 or 2 tablespoons of good vinegar. Throw in all your finely chopped parsley leaves, mix, and season.
Step 4 - Remove the sausages from the roasting pan and pour away any fat. Tip the lentils into your serving bowls. Remove the cinnamon stick from the salsa rossa and discard it, then season well to taste and spoon it over your lentils. Place 2 sausages, either sliced or whole, on top. Sprinkle with the thyme and serve with a big bowl of steaming broccoli.
Recipe by Jamie Oliver from Jamie's Italy