The weather has been surprisingly agreeable: golden mornings with a slight chill in the air, clear blue skies and warm sunshine in the afternoon. Days finish with fine, cool evenings. I sometimes wish the weather could stay like this when autumn properly arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, especially here in Britain. A movie-perfect season with crisp weather, sweet chestnuts and woolly jumpers is such a charming scene to imagine!
The reality is that while you do have splendid autumn days, the season is mostly so cold that your nipples stand to attention if you wear anything less than half a dozen layers. Instead of everyday life passing by in a whirl of beautifully tinted fallen leaves, there’s rain pissing down onto a relentlessly grey world. You curse every minute you’re outdoors and are relieved when you return to the warmth of your home. Then you discover the central heating isn’t working. It’s just all a bit miserable, really..
Rich, warming meals are especially comforting as the weather grows colder, and can soothe even the most uncharitable of moods. This dish of sausages and lentils, adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe, should meet your needs: it’s comforting, flavourful and filling, and can be made in less than an hour.
- . 125g – 150 g dark green lentils, such as Puy lentils.
- . 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra
- . 2 shallots, finely chopped
- . Pinch of salt
- . About 300ml cold water
- . 2 medium cloves garlic
- . 6 pork sausages
- . 150ml vegetable or chicken stock
- . Salt and pepper to taste
- . 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
- Rinse the lentils under cold water, then drain them. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over a moderate flame.
- When the oil is warm, add the shallots and a pinch of salt.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until the shallots are fragrant, soft, and slightly see-through.
- You may have to turn down the heat a little so they don’t brown too much.
- Add the lentils and the cold water; the liquid should cover the lentils by a couple of centimetres.
- Increase the heat and bring everything to a boil.
- Cover the saucepan with its lid or some tinfoil, reducing the heat slightly until the mixture is at a moderate simmer.
- Cook the lentils for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until they have absorbed the water and are tender when you bite into them – you’ll have to sacrifice a little forkful to check.
- When the lentils are just about done, start the sausages. Lentils can also be cooked in advance and reheated later.
- Over a medium flame, heat a thin film of oil in a fairly large heavy-bottomed frying pan.
- Fry the garlic for a few seconds until starting to turn gold and fragrant.
- Add the sausages to the pan, browning each side by allowing them to sit in the hot pan for a good few minutes.
- Pour in the stock and let it bubble, then cover the pan with a lid, simmering everything for 15 minutes.
- When the sausages have finished cooking, the stock should be reduced to a thick gravy.
- Mash the soft garlic cloves into the gravy with a fork.
- Stir in a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar into the gravy, if using.
- Taste a little of the liquid; it should be quite strong and salty as it’s going to be poured over the lentils, but you can add a few tablespoons of water if it’s much too dry and intense.
- Reheat the lentils if necessary, and then pile them onto a dish or lipped plate along with the sausages and gravy. Serve right away.