Nigel Slater – culinary hero

For most of my twenties I had the unadulterated luck to work in a bookshop, sadly now gone but in its day one of the biggest and best in the world. In the course of my job I got the chance to meet many authors but the person I was most excited about meeting and getting to sign my books was Nigel Slater. He writes about food passionately but in such an unpretentious way that it feels accessible to all and my well thumbed copy of Appetite was one of the first cookbooks to get me really excited about cooking. He visited the shop to do a stock signing for Toast which I had read in one sitting and had loved for its humility and humour. He was very kind to me as I babbled at him and good naturedly signed all my grease-spotted, floury copies of his books, as well as writing a dedication in a copy of Toast I was getting my dad for Christmas. He was and is a culinary hero of mine.

My good friend, Fi, seeing that I had started this blog, gave me a copy of the film of Toast which inexplicably I have never seen. So today I made a version of Nigel Slater’s lentils with sausages (I scaled it down a bit because there’s only two of us here) and tonight, while Barry’s out, I’m going to sit and watch Toast.

There’s something very beautiful about green lentils, uncooked they remind me of chips of some exotic semi-precious stone. Cooked they promise something hearty but not heavy and the contrast between the orange of the carrots and the green of the lentils in this dish satisfies my long neglected artistic side.

Lentils and sausages after Nigel Slater

  • Olive oil
  • 4 rashers smoked streaky bacon chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 carrot, diced roughly
  • 1 stick of celery, diced roughly
  • 200g green lentils
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 big pork sausages
  • Chopped parsley

Fry the bacon in a heavy pan with a lid over a medium heat until it’s lightly coloured. Add the onion and let it soften for a minute or two while you chop the carrot and celery. Add them in too and let them soften but not colour. Add the lentils, stock, bay leafs and sausages. I made each of the big sausages I had into two smaller ones first by squeezing them in the middle, twisting them then cutting them in half. Bring it to the boil then turn it down to a simmer and cook it with the lid on for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the parsley, season and serve.

Green lentil and polish sausage soup

The weather has started feeling a bit more autumnal where we live, there’s a wee chill in the air the last couple of days. The boy started school a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been taken back to that start of the school year feeling from when I was young. The last few summery days seem to have gone and in time honoured fashion the colder weather has turned my thoughts to making soup. I picked up some green lentils on a whim in Waitrose the other week and scanned the ‘net for some ideas. This is based on an Ina Garten recipe that appears all over the place. The original recipe suggests kielbasa sausage but by the time I got to the supermarket I had kabanos in my head so that’s what I bought.

 

  • 200 g green lentils
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, quartered and sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons garlic puree (or 2 or 3 crushed cloves – I used puree from a tube because I’m lazy)
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1600 ml chicken stock
  • 1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 180g packet kabanos chopped into 1/2cm slices
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar if you have no balsamic)
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Soak the lentils in boiling water for 15 minutes then drain and rinse till later. I chopped my vegetables while they were soaking.

In a big soup pot (I have a low pressure-pressure cooker I use for this sort of thing), fry the onions and leeks with the garlic, a few twists of fresh ground salt and pepper and the thyme in the olive oil for about ten minutes or until the onions are translucent. Chuck in the carrots and celery and cook for ten more minutes. Pour in the chicken stock (homemade would be good but I just used stock powder), the tin of tomatoes, the chopped kabanos* and the lentils. Simmer covered until the lentils are cooked. In the magical low pressure cooker it took about half an hour, it might be longer in a ‘normal’ pot. Add the vinegar and give it another five minutes or so.

Serve with grated Parmesan and crusty bread (we had sourdough with lashings of butter).

*most versions of this recipe suggest putting the sausage in once the lentils are cooked but I got a bit carried away and put them in with the lentils and the smokey flavor right through the soup was lovely.