Living la vida lentilha

Having recently unearthed  a scrumptious recipe for  red lentil soup, I am continuing to keep my finger on the pulse and see what else one can do give the lentil back its rightful place in modern gastronomy.In the seeming absence of the lentil on Portuguese restaurant menus I am going loco and thought I would investigate what has happened to lentil recipes in the Portuguese culinary tradition.As I had already suspected, all the recipes I found were not mainstream and were mainly hearty soup and stew recipes from rural regions.Lentils have always been a cheap and nutritious means of filling the bellies of peasants and workers, so this figures.But why are todays chefs  not incorporating this masterly legume into the pulse of their repertoire? This still surprises me, given that in this day and age when peasant dishes have become fashionable,plebs and plummies share the same dishes with a certain aplomb and bonhomie at tables alongside each other in restaurants.
I found out that In Brazil it is tradition to eat  the  Lentilha de ano novo ( "New Year lentil" )just before the year turns. This habit was brought by the Italian immigrants, and according to their belief, the lentil appropriately attracts good fortune for the coming year.This recipe seemed rather familar to me and resembled a hearty winter dish I used to cook back in England, with lovely spicy Italian sausages, puy lentils and winter root vegetables,parsnip,carrots,turnip,celeriac squash and beetroot.It was time to rootle in not only my own archives but the archives of Portuguese cuisine,only then would I come up with a recipe to put the good old legume back up there on the map alongside the chickpea, the bean and the pea. The smattering of Portuguese recipes I was lucky enough to find all included variations on the nations vast selection of smoked sausages.
Paio com lentilhas
Estufado de lentilhas com alheira
Lentilhas de ano novo
Well will all this nosing about in the annals of lentilhan history,who do I think I am (call me Sherlock why don´t you) I was now ready to put pig and puy to pot.A last glance through Stéphane Reynauds Pork and Sons threw up a classic French peasant dish of pork and lentils which not only used smoked sausage, but various other cuts of pork, Hock, smoked shoulder and salted spare ribs.No more messing, I was finally ready.My recipe was going to be primarily Portuguese but with some Italian and French influence.


Salpicao,smoked with the wood of holm oak

Smoked Azorean linguica
Smoked belly pork
Lentilhas verdes com enchidos fumados 
e legumes de raiz de inverno
( Puy lentils with smoked sausage and winter root vegetables )

500g selection of mixed root vegetables diced 
Beetroot butternut squash turnip celeriac carrot 
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
350g puy lentils
100g smoked belly pork,rind removed,cut into chunks
150g salpicao or alheira, cut into chunks
4 smoked linguica sausages cut into four pieces each
vegetable stock
In a pestle and mortar grind the chilli and coriander roughly.Peel and cut the butternut squash into small chunks.In a bowl toss the chunks and linguica sausages with olive oil and then sprinkle over the ground spice mix of chilli and coriander.Tip out onto a roasting tray and roast in the oven until the butternut squash is tender to a knife point and the sausages are browned.Set the sausages aside and when cool enough cut each sausage into four pieces.Set the butternut squash aside.
In a heavy frying pan sauté the mixed  diced vegetables. in some olive oil.when they begin to colour pour in the lentils and smoked belly pork.Add enough vegetable stock to cover.Tuck in a few bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.Add the linguica,salpicao and reserved butternut squash and continue cooking until the lentils are tender about 10 more minutes.


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