Lentils with Fennel and Sausages

Fennel is such a pleasure. Via Rachel Eats for the Guardian.

  • 250g (around ½ a pound) small brown Italian lentils (look out for castellucio) [I used French lentils.]
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • A small onion
  • A stick of celery
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
  • Salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Chopped parsley (optional)
  • 4 large sausages (or eight smaller ones) [I chose hot Italian sausage– Italian sausage seems best considering the fennel flavor.]
  1. Pick over the lentils for stones or grit, then rinse them. Remove the outer layer of fennel if it is very thick or damaged and save for stock. Trim just a little from the base as you want the bulb to hold together. Then cut away the fingers (saving any fronds for salad). Peel and finely dice the onion along with the celery and fennel fingers. Cut the fennel bulb in half, and then quarters and each quarter into wedges.
  2. Warm the olive oil in a deep frying pan or casserole, add the chopped onion, celery and fennel along with a pinch of salt and cook gently until soft. Then add the fennel wedges and bay leaves and stir until everything glistens with oil.
  3. Now add the lentils and stir again. Add 800ml (3-3 ½ cups) of cold water, bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer until the lentils are tender (but still holding their shape) with just a little liquid – this will take 20–40 minutes depending on the age and variety of lentils. Season with salt and black pepper, olive oil and some chopped parsley if you wish.
  4. Meanwhile grill or pan-fry the sausages. [I like to sear my sausages on all sides (2-3 minutes a side), then put them in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 to cook them through. I use a pan that I can safely move to the oven.] 
  5. In the last minutes of lentil cooking time, add the sausages and a little of their fat and juices. Stir and serve.

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