Autumnal lentil and bratwurst stew with pan fried spaetzle

This is a warming, hearty recipe that is perfect for autumn. Spaetzle are German noodles which are usually boiled or pan fried and served with a main dish. This recipe was inspired by a meal eaten in Berlin and I have used readymade spaetzle however you can easily find recipes online if you have time to give it a go. You can also add some smoked ham into the base of the stew if you like. If you can’t get hold of bratwurst then any good quality sausage will work well.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 large carrot- finely diced
2 celery sticks- finely diced
1 large onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
100g diced smoked ham or pancetta (optional)
400g green lentils
600ml vegetable stock
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Fresh parsley
Bay leaves
4 bratwurst sausages
400-500g readymade spaetzle- alternatively you can find a recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/german-spaetzle-dumplings/

1. Get going by taking a large pan and heating a glug of oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes before adding in the carrot, celery and ham (if using). Stir through the lentils so they get a light coating of the onions and garlic.

2. Pop in the stock, vinegar and a couple of bay leaves and bring to the boil. I added 400ml of the stock to start with and reserved the rest and added little by little as some lentils are much more absorbent than others to judge it as you go. I always make more stock than I think I need just in case! Lower the heat, season well, cover loosley and simmer for around 30-40 minutes until the lentils are tender and the liquid is reducing but some still remains for the next step.

3. Just before the lentil stew is ready, cook the bratwurst as you wish. Bratwurst can be boiled, grilled or fried so pick the cooking method of your choice! To finish off, you need to pan fry the spaetzle for a couple of minutes until cooked through. Serve the spaetzle and lentil stew with a sprinkle of parsley, with the bratwurst on the side and tuck in! Of course, you can also chunk the sausage and toss that through the lentils if you like.

Lentil and spaetzle stew with bratwurst- a tasty take on a German classic!  

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Ultimate slow cooked bolognese

A great bolognese should be in everyone’s culinary repertoire so let me share mine with you. The key to a beautiful bolognese sauce, or ragu, is slow cooking so be patient! Also remember that Italians traditionally serve this with tagliatelle so use a good quality pasta so the sauce clings to every strand. If you’re not a huge fan of mince then substitute it with diced beef but remember that this would cook better in the oven on a low heat to ensure the meat falls apart.

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Ingredients-serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
400g beef or veal mince or half and half
1 onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
200g chestnut mushrooms- sliced
Handful of rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 celery sticks- finely sliced
1 carrot- finely chopped
Small pack of pancetta cubes
120ml red wine
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
Beef stock cube
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
400g dried spaghetti or tagliatelle

1. To start, take a large pan and heat 1tbsp of the oil over a high heat and brown off the mince which will take a few minutes. I often use veal mince as it has a lower fat content and gives a lighter bolognese.

2. In a frying pan sautee the chestnut and porcini mushrooms until golden. Mushrooms need to be cooked over a high heat to draw out the water

. 3. Take a heavy based pan (time to crack out my Le Creuset again!) and heat the remaining oil over a medium heat.Cook the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta until it all begins to soften and then add the garlic into the pan for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pancetta cubes are easy to find however if you want to ramp up the flavour even more then look for a small block of pancetta which you then cut yourself. This tends to have more flavour and a smokey note which you don’t get with precut cubes so head to the local deli and treat yourself!

4. Next the tomato puree goes in to cook off for another couple of minutes, followed by the red wine and aim to reduce this by half. Pop the bay leaf in and sprinkle the oregano.

5. Stir the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar in and crumble in the stock cube which will add an additional depth of flavour. Season to taste, bring the bolognese up to a simmer, cover and cook on the hob for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. I also keep some of the porcini mushroom liquor back and add a little to give an extra meatiness.

6. When the bolognese is nearly ready cook the pasta and drain well. I add the pasta into the sauce to ensure each stand if pasta is well coated. Divide the bolognese between the bowls and serve with parmesan.

A classic dish to please any family! I mean who wouldn’t want this simmering away on their hob?…