This is my first savoury recipe for the blog because - apparently - you cannot live on cake and crumble alone. I only started cooking with fennel recently, and I feel like my life up to this point has been wasted - it's so peppery and fresh. Somehow the fennel, along with the the stock, carrots and garlic, turn the lentils into a creamy salty-sweet stew which I can't get enough of. While this isn't the most beautiful of meals, it's delicious and feels really wholesome and...kind of 70's. It's also a great recipe for just bunging in any vegetables that you need to use up - in my case a couple of cherry tomatoes. Also, turning sausages into meatballs is something of a revelation for me. I'm surprised it isn't on the news more.
Here's the recipe. It serves 4:
Pack of sausages (any kind you like, although I tend to go with the more plain ones so they absorb more fennel flavour)
Teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons of dried parsley
Fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped (I love garlic so if you're not as keen you might want to use less)
200g puy lentils
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 tablespoons sultanas (optional)
850ml of chicken or vegetable stock
2 lemons cut into quarters
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
When you've prepared all your vegetables put them in a pan with the stock and the lentils and simmer. This stew will take about 40mins in total to cook, but keep checking (when they're ready the lentils and carrots will be soft, but not mushy).
While that's on the hob get the sausages and squeeze all the meat out into a large bowl. Add the dried parsley and fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper. (This recipe would work well with veggie sausages, just cook them as normal and cut them into chunks. Then add the fennel seeds to the stew rather than the meat).
Roll the sausage meat into little balls. You should get about 40 of them out of a 450g pack of sausages. Lightly oil a griddle or frying pan and cook the meatballs until they're browned but not fully cooked. Here are mine before browning.
After about 25 minutes of simmering the stew, you should still have a little bit of stock left in the pan (if you don't, then top it up with some water), and the carrots and lentils should taste almost ready. Add the sultanas, if you're using them, and stir in the tomato puree. Carefully pour in the meatballs and let them sit on top of the stew. Cover the pan and let it cook for another 10-15 minutes.
After that the water should have all been absorbed into the lentils and the meat should be cooked. Serve with a wedge of lemon and some fresh parsley on top.