Sausage and red lentil middle eastern stew
This stew, whilst it looks rather complex, is actually very simple to throw together and is my take on the Middle Eastern and north African shakshuka – a spiced tomato stew with eggs baked in the sauce. There’s something wonderful about the rich, slow-cooked tomatoes and lentils mixed with the underlying depth of cumin, cayenne and paprika that works so well.
It’s totally ‘peasant food’ which is my favourite way to cook. Unfussy and basic but packed with flavour. I’ve added all kinds of things that would never have traditionally been in the dish but that’s the glory of cooking isn’t it? Being able to take something you love and are influenced by and adapting it to your tastes and what’s available to you. Food is one of the best ways we as humans can explore other cultures. We can then play and experiment to our personal tastes. This bending of culture is what I love so much about food and I’d hate to live in a world where we’re not all encouraged to explore.
In a large casserole dish gently heat some butter and olive oil and then throw in the sausages and fresh thyme and brown them well for at least 6 minutes, turning frequently.
Add the onions, carrots and celery, plus all the spices and slowly sauté until the veg are soft and the seasoning is beginning to warm up nicely. Add the green beans and lentils and stir well, then add the tomatoes and stir together. Next add the stock and white wine, stir well, turn down the heat to its lowest and let the whole thing gently simmer for at least an hour (stir every 10 min or so and after half an hour place the lid on.)
Season well with salt and pepper, stir in the watercress and chopped coriander and place the lid back on the pot for 10 minutes.
When you’re ready to add the eggs, take a little spoon and make a small well in the stew, then crack in an egg, move to the next spot, make a well and crack in another egg. Turn the heat off, place the lid back on and let the eggs cook in the heat of the stew until the whites turn white and the yolks become beautifully soft – this takes roughly 10 minutes, by which time your stew is the perfect temperature to eat!