Risotto is a popular dish. And for good reason. It’s creamy, savoury, cheesy and substantial enough to be a full meal on its own. Most times it’s done with a short grain Italian rice (arborio rice), but it can be done with other grains like barley. Today, I wanted to stretch the limit of the definition a little further and try a traditional risotto method of slowly ladling in stock over the “grain” with lentils.
Legumes can be difficult to deal with because they oftentimes need a pre-soak and/or long simmering to cook. Lentils are the delightful exception to the rule. No pre-soaking. No long cooking times. Well….a risotto generally adds upwards of 20% to the cooking time of anything so a normal 40 minute cook time for lentils is extended to 50-60 minutes. Because risotto in general has a unique creaminess that can’t be achieved any other way, the extra work involved is always worth it.
Sausage Lentil Risotto:
1 tsp cold pressed canola oil
100g/4 oz sausage meat
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup dry whole red lentils (the lentils have to be whole for them to hold through the cooking process. French Puy lentils would also work great)
1 tsp caraway seeds
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup shredded pecorino cheese (about 50g/2 oz)
In a medium pot over medium low heat, add the chicken stock and keep at a simmer on the back burner.
In a wide-bottomed, shallow pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the sausage meat, crumbling it with a wooden spoon and brown on all sides (about 4-5 minutes). Add the onions and sauté to soften the onion (about 3-4 minutes). Add the lentils and stir quickly to coat in the flavourful sausage mixture.
Ladle in 1/2 cup of stock and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits that may have stuck to the pan. Stir continuously, reducing the heat to medium and simmer until most of the liquid has absorbed.
Add the caraway seeds. Continue to ladle in stock, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing it to simmer and absorb between additions until the lentils are tender but not mushy (about 50-55 minutes total). Once the final addition of stock has absorbed, stir in the sour cream. If this thins out the mixture, simmer for a further 5-8 minutes to bring it together and be smooth, but not runny. Take off the heat, stir in the pecorino and serve. Serves 2.