I am lucky enough to live in the Cognac and Pineau grape growing area of South West France - we also grow grapes for the excellent local (Charente-Maritime) wine in this area. Our woodman, Monsieur Jacquot, has a small chateau with several vineyards, and every year we are invited to join in on the first or last day of the "Vendange" - the grape harvest. And, every year, Madame Jacquot prepares and cooks the most delicious food for all of the grape pickers, family and invited friends. This year (2009) the harvest started on the 1st October, and this is the dish she made for us, served simply with fresh salads, assorted local breads, local butter, cheese and of course local wine, pineau and cognac. I asked her for the recipe and she rattled out the ingredients at a rapid pace, whilst I scribbled them down on the back of an envelope! I have recreated this recipe at home twice now, and this is ALMOST as good as hers is! (Mind you, she set hers out on long tables with white linen and beautiful old vintage crockery.......I found out that the white linen were bed sheets! NEVER used on a bed she stressed, kept for large gatherings.) The key to this recipe is SIMPLICITY and GOOD sausages and wine. I used local Toulouse sausages, meaty and with a high 85% meat content. But you can use ANY good, meaty sausages that you have available locally - I bet high quality venison or Angus beef sausages would be brilliant in this dish. Also, DO try to source “Lentilles Vert de Puy” – green Puy lentils; they make all the difference to this wonderful harvest dish. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did, sitting at the long table in the old barn, under ancient beams and with beaming faces and loud laughter. ( PS: I cut this recipe RIGHT back from 30 people to just 4! Please adjust the amounts to suit.)
- 1 tablespoon sunfower oil
- 8 slices streaky smoked bacon (rashers)
- 8 large sausages (Such as Toulouse, Beef or Venison)
- 4 onions, peeled and cut into large chunks
- fresh thyme
- 200 g dry green lentils (Puy)
- 2 -4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 300 ml good quality beef stock or 300 ml consomme
- 150 ml red wine, such as Bordeaux
- Heat the oil in a large casserole dish such as a Le Creuset or Dutch oven and over a medium heat fry the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and then add the sausages, brown them on all sides. Remove the sausages.
- Add the onion chunks and turn up the heat so that they soften and take on a crispy caramel colour. Put the sausages back into the dish and add the thyme, lentils and garlic, cook for a minute stirring all the time.
- Then add the stock or consommé and the wine. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and partially cover with a lid. Simmer for 35 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and the sausages cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then crumble in the crispy bacon just before serving, with a few more fresh thyme leaves.
- Allow people to help themselves from the pot in the middle of the table; serve with assorted salads, bread, cheese and a glass or three of wine!
- Vive la Vendange!