So it’s Saturday evening, the day before Farmers’ Market day, and the fridge is a bit bare. Also, you were out all day and are now somewhat exhausted. You really don’t want to go to the supermarket. And the dishes situation is really somewhat epic, due to the fact that you have made yourself four birthday cakes so far this week (this was not the original plan, but sometimes these things happen).
But you do need something sensible for dinner after all that picnic food and cake for lunch. And you had takeaway last night, so that will certainly not do.
So you look in the fridge, and find the two carrots leftover from making carrot cake. You find the lovely sausages that were delivered today (meat being the one thing you currently do have fresh and in quantity). You still have some of those chillis drying out on the table from the huge autumnal veggie box a few weeks ago, and you are certainly still rich in garlic and onions. Three tomatoes are considering succumbing to dodginess on the fruit stand. On the benchtop, there is half a packet of lentils and about a quarter of a packet of risoni pasta, and your father was just talking today about how Nonna used to make pasta with lentils and how he could probably still make it now. (It’s almost certainly nothing like this recipe, though.)
Maybe you have the makings of dinner after all… and a one-pot, comfort-food dinner at that, just right for a cold night.
(Just don’t chop up the chillis and then rub your eyes and nose, or you will be much more awake and much less happy)
Your Shopping List (or, What’s Lurking In The Kitchen Today?)1 -2 tbsp olive oil 4 sausages, any kind that you think will go with lentils or that happen to be on hand 1 onion 1 garlic clove 1 dried red chilli 1/2 tsp dried rosemary salt, pepper and a pinch of fennel if you have it 2 carrots 1/4 cup white wine 3 tomatoes 1 cup red lentils 1/2 cup risoni pasta
Now what will you do with it?
Heat the olive oil in a medium-large saucepan, and prick the sausages in a few places. Brown them in the pan, but don’t worry about cooking them through yet – mostly, you want to get that nice sausage flavour into the pan juices.
Remove the sausages from the pan and set them aside for now. Finely chop the chilli and garlic and slice the onion into half moons. Add these to the saucepan (there will be enough oil leftover from the sausages, you don’t need to add more) along with the rosemary, fennel, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften.
Peel and slice the carrots (you may want to halve them lengthwise if they are enormous) and add to the pan.
Let everything cook a little longer, then add the white wine and the tomatoes. Raise the heat so that the wine and tomatoes bubble up, then add the lentils to the pan along with 2 1/2 cups of water.
Lower the heat, cover, and let everything simmer for ten minutes or so. Actually, it may need longer than this – lentils usually do – but mine were al dente at the ten minute mark, so start checking then.
Slice the sausages thickly – about 1 cm thick, in fact – and add back to the pan once the lentils are al dente.
Cover and simmer for five more minutes, check to see if the sausages are basically cooked through and the lentils are all but done, then add the risoni.
Cover and simmer for a final five minutes, check that the risoni are ready, then serve. I sprinkled ours with a bit of grated parmesan, which was just perfect. Eat, and feel warmed.
This makes between 2 and 3 very comforting servings.
OK, this is not vegetarian. Not even a little bit. I’m not sure whether replacing the sausage with smoked tofu would be a winning solution, but it might be worth a try. Or else you could take it out entirely, and just spice this dish up at the start with beautiful things like cumin and oregano and paprika and make spicy soupy lentils and pasta.
If you wanted to make it gluten-free, you could substitute the risoni for actual risotto rice, such as arborio, and add it seven or eight minutes before the end, rather than five. You might need to adjust your water upward a little. The tomatoes, onions and carrots don’t do much to make this fructose friendly, but this dish is fairly low-GI, which is something.
Oh, and this is egg, nut and dairy-free, assuming you don’t do the grated cheese thing. It’s also, I would think, extremely cheap to make, even if you aren’t using leftover ends of packets and shaggy vegetables.
In terms of other variations, adding a stick of celery, chopped, at the start would be an excellent idea. I would have done this if I’d had one, frankly. Nothing else springs to mind. If it did, I would be a much less tired Catherine, and probably wouldn’t have come up with this dish.
This time last year…