Friday, September 04, 2009

Cotechino with Red Lentil Stew

Chris from Mele Cotte is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I'm having a closer look at Red Lentils.

Red Lentils© by Haalo

These are locally grown Mount Zero Persian Red Lentils and if I'm going to be totally superficial, they are quite attractive. They have had their skins removed and don't require any soaking before you cook with them - a bonus for the time poor or those with bad planning skills.

For me, lentils are an excuse to indulge in an Italian dish - a favoured sausage from my mother's region of Emilia-Romagna, Cotechino.

Now, Cotechino is worthy of its own post but for this recipe it will suffice to say that Cotechino is a large thick sausage, lightly spiced and made from all sorts of bits of pork and a generous quality of it's fat. It's first boiled for a few hours and when sliced the combination of ingredients leads to a wonderfully gelatinous treat. To balance the richness of the dish, lentils are the favoured companion.

While it is very traditional to eat the Cotechino just simply sliced once it has boiled, I prefer to grill or sauté the slices, further rendering the fat giving it a crisp outer shell.

For those that follow this site might realise that pulses are not one of Paalo's favourite ingredients so I do have to perform minor culinary miracles to get him to eat them. The following dish actually had him asking "are there any more lentils?"

Cotechino with Red Lentil Stew© by Haalo

Cotechino with Red Lentil Stew

1 Cotechino
1 red onion, diced finely
1 large carrot, diced finely
3 celery stalks, diced finely
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), diced finely
1 cup red lentils
1 heaped tablespoon tomato paste

While you are boiling the Cotechino you can make the red lentil stew - if you can't find Cotechino, just use a good pork sausage in its place.

At the heart of all these Italian stews, is the soffrito - that combination of, in this case, onion, carrot, celery and capsicum. The more time you take to ensure this soffrito has really developed its flavours, the better the end result.

Put a heavy based pan over a low heat - drizzle in a little olive oil and a knob of butter. When the butter has melted add in the onion, carrot, celery and capsicum. Stir well and allow to very slowly soften and colour. I like to aim at having this take somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes. You'll notice that the vegetables are sweating and releasing their wonderful juices, you'll especially notice it with the capsicum, the liquid that is forming will have a red hue.

Rinse the lentils and check for any impurities and then add to the pan. Pour in enough water to cover the lentils - stir in a tablespoon of tomato paste and let it simmer.

The lentils will absorb the liquid as they cook so keep an eye on the dish to make sure it doesn't dry out. These red lentils won't collapse with cooking, so the best way to check that they are done is by tasting them.

Don't season the stew until it's completely cooked but also make sure you take in consideration the spice level of your Cotechino.

When the lentils have cooked, cut the Cotechino into slices - thick or thin is really up to your own preference. Grill or saute until golden.

To serve:

Place a good spoonful of red lentil stew on your plate and top with a couple of slices of Cotechino.

Red Lentil Stew© by Haalo

If you have any lentils left over they make an excellent brunch or lunch dish - serve on thick slices of toasted sourdough and then top with a poached (or fried) egg.


  1. I adore red lentils and this looks simple and fantastic! I am not familiar with Cotechino- I'll have to seek it out...

  2. This looks yummy. Just made some red lentil chili last night -- it's quick and hot and tasty. Don't have any familiarity with Cotechino either -- that's what my food encyclopedia is for!

  3. I am in love with lentils and cotechino. Ooooh, cotechino. We make them at work. Sigh. Cravings. Cravings...go away!
    Look what you did.

  4. This looks great! I love lentils and the Italian flavours looks set to be a winner.


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