Just over a week ago all was quiet. Celebrations to close the book on the old and start a brand new year started with a strangely quiet morning. A peek out the kitchen window revealed empty city streets. Funny how the first of the year feels like a long winter slumber. Being one for rituals, I set out early to get rid of domestic clutter and to cooking a pot of lentils. Lentils (and the spicy sausage “cotechino”) are traditionally served throughout Italy as a symbol of good fortune on New Year’s Eve. Their earthy perfume reminds me of home and of the comfort that comes from simplicity. Here’s to January and slow beginnings.
- 250 grams brown lentils from Norcia or choose Le Puy lentils from France
- or black lentils work wonderfully too
- Two carrots . about 125 grams in weight
- Two small organic new harvest potatoes
- One small red onion . about 125 grams peeled
- One or two cloves of garlic
- 12 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
- 50-75 ml extra virgin olive oil
- The leaves of two sprigs of rosemary
- 750 ml water or red onion vegetable broth
- one – two teaspoons Celtic sea salt
Soak the lentils 30 minutes to an hour. Scrub the carrots and cut into a fine dice. Scrub and peel the potatoes. Cut into bite-sized chunks and keep in a bowl of water until further use. Peel the onions and cut into a dice equal in size to the carrots. Peel and chop the garlic clove very fine.Wash and dry the flat leaf parsley. Chop both the leaves and the stems and set aside. Pick the leaves of rosemary from their sprigs. Chop them with a scant teaspoon of sea salt on a cutting board into a fine, aromatic salt – or simply make a pot of herbal salt for the pantry.
Heat the olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate the soup ingredients. Add the rosemary salt, garlic and onions to the pan and saute the ingredients a few minutes at medium-low heat until the onions have started to turn transparent. Add the carrots and flat leaf parsley and continue to saute five minutes.
Drain and rinse the lentils. Add the lentils and the potatoes to the sautéed vegetables. Pour in water (or homemade vegetable broth). Put a lid on the pan, leaving it just open enough to let out some steam. Cook the ingredients at a simmer on low heat for thirty minutes. When lentils have softened, add a good pinch of sea salt. Taste the stew for the right balance between earthy, salty and savory. Add rosemary, salt and even the squeeze of a lemon if needed.
Mash the lentils with a potato masher until half the vegetables have formed a purée and the other half are still chunky. Drizzle in some new harvest olive oil and enjoy a bowl tucked against your chest, with your feet curled up under a blanket.
Double this recipe for a large family gathering. Serve it with grated, aged local cheese. New harvest olive oil and a grinding of black pepper with some lemon peel does wonders to this dish as well.
All soups and stews taste better when able to cool down. This allows the flavors to mingle and somehow become better. If time permits, make it in the morning for dinner and allow it to cool completely before re-heating. Just a few spoons of rosemary lentils make a perfect meal with grilled white fish or a ripe avocado.
Norcia is a beautiful small town in the southern Italian region of Umbria. It is well known among other things for its cultivation of these beautiful lentils.
This recipe was originally published on Jamie Magazine NL on the eighth of January 2016.