It is heavenly to be back in my own little kitchen again and to have the luxury of pottering. My kitchen in Uzzano is tiny, it is actually in a little cupboard if that makes any sense. But it is all I need to start experimenting with food again. We have gas burners and a mini fridge and sink. I use the table to do my chopping and stare out the window and remind myself that I am living in a little hillside village in Tuscany. Dreams do come true.
I have been meaning to try this recipe for ages and had a craving for it yesterday. I can take no credit for it as my very dear friend Julie-chan emailed it to me months ago. I played around with it a little depending what I had in the cupboard, so this version is what created the finished product. I suspect it will become one of my favourite meals. It was absolutely heavenly. Best thing was that there was leftovers for lunch and the kids enjoyed it just as much, if not more second time round. Even Miss Fussy Rissie exclaimed on first mouthful, “But Mummy, this is delicious!”
Julie’s Sicilian Lentil & Olive Ragu
Generous splashes of a good olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots finely chopped
1/2 bunch basil leaves, roughly chopped and stalks finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Generous splashes of red wine
Sprinkling of dried chilli flakes
Handful of pitted black olives
400 gram can whole peeled tomatoes
200 gram ripe cherry tomatoes
400ml vegetable stock
1/2 cup green lentils
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Heat oil in a large fry-pan over medium-low heat.
Add onion, celery, carrot, basil stalks and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until translucent.
Add wine, bring to the boil over medium heat, then cook for 2-3 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in chilli flakes and cook for 1 minute, then add olives, canned and fresh tomatoes, and stock.
Bring to the boil, then stir in lentils and season well. Add vinegar. Reduce heat to low and cover with a lid, then cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or until sauce is thickened and lentils are tender. Remove lid and cook for a further 1 hour or until reduced by half, adding generous splashes of water if too thick. Continue to taste and season.
About 15 minutes before the ragu is cooked, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup (250 ml) cooking liquid. Add pasta to lentil ragu. Gradually stir enough pasta water into ragu to loosen. Scatter over basil leaves and serve.