Don’t you just love it when the tantalizing aroma of a savoury dish bubbling away on the stove brings family members sniffing into the kitchen? Mmmmm. Something smells good! What’s for supper?
And don’t you just love it when that savoury dish is full of flavour and good nutrition to boot?
This simple lentil, vegetable and sausage ‘eintopf’ is a robust and satisfying stew combining the goodness of vegetables with the healthy fiber, protein and minerals of lentils. The smoked bratwurst adds delectable flavour typical of hearty German country food, and the subtle sweet ‘n sour tang adds just the right piquant twist to enhance the earthy lentil flavour. It reminds me so much of my mom’s home cooking.
This Lentil Eintopf is typical of the Thüringen area of Germany – the region that brings us Thüringer Bratwurst, blown-glass Christmas ornaments, and is the home of Bach, Martin Luther and Goethe. Thüringen is known as the ‘Christmas State‘ and it is in this region of Germany that many Christmas traditions originate. The food in this cultural heart of Germany is as delicious and varied as any to be found in that country.
Of course, you can use any kind of bratwurst, or even other sausages, in this recipe, though preferrably a smoked variety, for the extra layer of flavour the smokiness imparts.
I love how Canadian lentils can be the star of a German-inspired dish – it epitomizes the cultural diversity of our Canadian identity. Settlers and immigrants from all over the world have brought us recipes from their homelands and shared them to become part of our culinary fabric. Canada is the largest producer of lentils in the world – our big sunshiny skies and rich prairie soil provide ideal growing conditions for this super healthy little legume.
We’re still covered deep in winter snow here in northern Alberta – so even while the rest of the country is thinking light spring meals, I’m loving the comfort of a warm lentil and sausage stew. It’s good any time of year.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: Lentils normally don’t need to be soaked before cooking, as long as they are cooked in plain water. However, salt and acids will toughen lentils if they are added before the lentils are fully cooked. In order to cook the lentils in broth in this recipe, soaking the lentils first helps them stay tender. During soaking they swell up and absorb the unsalted water, thus buffering them from the salt in the broth.
For this Lentil Eintopf, I like to use the large flat green lentils if I can find them. I think they look more attractive here, but other varieties of lentils would work just as well.
If you can’t find smoked bratwurst, use any kind of smoked sausage for this recipe (even ‘smokies’) or use an equal amount of cubed smoked ham.
Germans would use sugar beet syrup (a thick, dark syrup) to sweeten this dish, but I use honey.
German-Style Sweet & Sour Lentil Stew
- 1½ cups (300gms) green or brown lentils
- 6 cups (1.5litres) low-sodium beef or chicken broth
- 2 large carrots
- 2 large stalks celery (or 1 cup grated or finely diced celeriac/celery root)
- 2 large potatoes
- 1 sprig fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 3 or 4 links of smoked bratwurst or other smoked sausage (gluten-free if necessary)
- 2 medium onions, sliced into rings
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Rinse the lentils in a seive, then soak them, covered by several inches of water, for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
Drain the soaked lentils,
and combine them with the broth in a large pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lentils are just tender, but not mushy. Test by tasting or squishing one between thumb and finger to see how soft it is.
While the lentils are cooking, peel and grate or finely dice the carrots. Finely dice the celery (or shred or dice the celeriac). You should have about 1 generous heaping cup of each.
Peel and dice the potatoes into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes.
Add the vegetables to the lentils. Season with the salt, pepper and thyme.
Bring the vegetables back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes more, making sure all the vegetables are submerged under the simmering broth.
While the vegetables are simmering, heat a skillet with the oil. Slice the sausage into coins, then saute them in the oil until browned on one side. Turn the slices over to brown the other side. Remove the sausages slices to a plate, leaving the fat from the sausages in the skillet.
Add the sliced onions to the skillet and saute them until some of the edges caramelize and turn a deep brown. Add a few tablespoons water to the skillet to loosen the browned bits from the sausages, and continue cooking the onions until they are golden brown and the water has evaporated.
When the vegetables are tender, add the honey and red wine vinegar to the stew, stirring gently to distribute it. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if it needs it. Add the sausages and onions to the pot, and stir once more, gently so you don’t break up the lentils. Remove the thyme sprigs if you see them surface.
Ladle into flat bowls to serve. This goes wonderfully with a crusty chunk of bread and a cold German beer (or for gluten-free, a slice of gluten-free bread and a chilled glass of Sekt).
Makes 4 hearty servings. (The leftovers are wonderful to pack for lunch the next day and reheat in the microwave, to make your coworkers drool.)
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