I don’t know about you, but for me there is something so comforting about puy lentils. They speak to me of warming wintery stews with sausages, red wine and lots of herbs. Recently when my cupboard seemed depressingly bare, I threw together the random collection of ingredients I did have and this dish was born. And it was bloody delicious. I’ve played around with it since then and this is a new incarnation of what has become a staple dish.
The new addition is sage, which is one of my favourite herbs, largely because it is so aromatic. For me, cooking is a huge part of eating, and smelling sage, pancetta, garlic and tomatoes bubbling away is the one of the surest way to get my taste buds tingling in anticipation. This simple dish is equally wonderful as a weeknight dish or as a hearty main course for a winter meal with friends. Accompany it with a bottle of full-bodied red and you’re on to an absolute winner.
- Olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- 50g cubed pancetta
- 1 courgette, chopped into cubes
- A handful of sage, roughly chopped
- 400ml can of chopped tomatoes
- 400ml chicken stock
- 150g puy lentils
- A big glug of red wine
- Salt and pepper
For the chicken:
- 2 free-range or organic chicken breasts
- Salt and pepper
- Knob of butter
In a large heavy-based dish (like a le creuset) fry the onions in a glug of olive oil. When they have softened add the cubed pancetta and the finely sliced garlic. After a couple of minutes add the courgette and sweat for a couple more minutes before stirring in the puy lentils. Mix the lentils around until they are coated in the pancetta juices and then stir in the tomatoes, a glug of wine and the chicken stock. The lentils should be completely covered in liquid. Season with pepper and a bit of salt (not too much because of the salty pancetta) and the chopped sage. Simmer for 20 minutes or so until the lentils have plumped up and soaked up all the liquid.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to around 200°C. Season your chicken breasts with salt and pepper and heat up a oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil and a generous knob of butter to the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the chicken breasts and sear, basting a little with the buttery oil. Transfer to the oven and roast for 10 minutes or so, depending on the size of the breasts. Make sure you don’t overcook the chicken; it needs to be moist and juicy. Tip: leave the chicken to rest for a couple of minutes before serving and don’t slice it until the last possible moment.
By now your lentils should be about ready. Check the consistency (thick but not solid) and the seasoning before dishing up. Serve by mounding up a lovely pile of lentils on a plate and then place the roasted chicken on top. Your fellow diners will be seriously grateful for this great big hug on a plate!