Alex has just alerted me to the fact that, because they look like little gold coins, lentils are a traditional dish on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Italy as they are thought to bring wealth in the year to come! I know it is a little late, but I thought maybe we could jump on the gold coin bandwagon, and I could point you in the direction of some freefrom lentil recipes for tomorrow. (There are lentils in there in the picture – they are just inside the peppers!)
But first, I though I should just check with my Italian oracle, Anna (del Conte)…. She says, in her ‘dictionary’ Gastronomy of Italy:
A very popular pulse enjoyed in all regions of Italy. The kind eaten are the continental lentils which keep their shape when cooked. Unlike other pulses they do not need soaking , unless they have been stored for too long. Lentils grow in many regions of Italy although the best kind come from Abruzzi and Umbria. The tiny, dark brown lentils from Castelluccio, a town east of Spoleto, are said to the best in Italy. In many regions lentils are eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve, or on New Year’s Day, because there is a superstition that they bring wealth in the year to come.
The recipe given here, she says, is for lenticchie in umido, which is the way we always cooked them in my family. We served them with Zampone, and what a meal that was.
This insaccato was created out of necessity in Modena in 1511. The town was under siege by the army of Pope Julius II and the townspeople found themselves without casings for their sausage meat. The answer to the problem was to use a pig’s trotter and to put sausage meat into that.
Zamponi are made with the rind, meat from the shoulder, head, neck and calf of the pig, and fat, all very finely minced together and flavoured with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper. The mixture is pushed into the boned trotter. Before cooking zampone is soaked for several hours; it is them wrapped in cloth to prevent the skin from splitting and cooked at a bare simmer for at least four hours. The result will be a tender sausage with a delicate taste and a light, jelly-like gluey texture.)
Anna’s recipe for lenticchie in umido, which I am sure she will not mind me quoting, goes like this:
15ml olive oil
50g pancetta (bacon)
1 small onion, very finely chopped
4–5 sage leaves or 1/4 tsp dried sage
350g brown lentils
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the oil and pancetta in a heavy saucepan and heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion and the sage and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the lentils and as soon as they are well coated with fat, pour over about 1 litre of boiling water. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour or until the lentils are soft but still whole and nearly all the liquid has been absorbed.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Or, for something more English……
FreeFrom Carrot and lentil soup (although this uses red lentils so I am not sure whether it counts for the good luck charm….)
FreeFrom Puy lentils with okra and coriander (this uses Puy lentils which Anna tells me are the nearest to the lentils from Castelluccuio mentioned above – and, as you will see, I am rather addicted to them….)
May I wish everyone a happy – and prosperous – New Year!