Brrrr it is cold! I envy my friends in the Northern Hemisphere now that evenings are becoming chilly, but on the other hand I like to cook nice winter casseroles! This dish is vegan and gluten free, for the polenta recipe I just use polenta flour, water and salt and follow the packet instructions (real polenta takes about 45 minutes, the instant takes 5!). Usually I make soft polenta, thus adding a bit more water, but packet instructions tend to be for the 'harder' type, the one that you pour onto a wooden chopping board and then cut into slices. My nonna (Grandmother) used to make the hard one, and then she cut it with a string attached to the chopping board: no knife needed and even the youngest kids can do it!
For the lentils, wash the brown lentils with water and then soak for a little. Soaking is not really necessary but I like to do it so then I can give them another rinse and get rid off possible dirt that 'escaped' in the first wash. In the meantime sauté a finely chop carrot, celery stick with leaves and garlic (or onion) with two tbsp of olive oil, add the lentils and cover with vegetable stock. You can also add a tbsp of tomato paste, or some herbs, but this time I just added some chopped parsley at the end of cooking. Simmer the lentils as long as you can, stirring often and adding more water if necessary. Adjust with salt and pepper (and parsley) at the end, add another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and save hot, with slices of hot polenta.
And now a little gardening update: I picked this orchid stem from my garden, so happy to have some cut flowers even in winter, and in the garden they seem to attract ants, so it is better to keep them inside. They last a long time too. I have also collected all my pumpkins (4), one is quite big, the others not so, but considering that they came form a plant that I didn't plant I am happy! They look good too, too pretty to cut, but eventually they will get eaten! The Irises instead are not from my garden, but I am seriously considering planting them, they are so pretty. I am not sure if they will do well in the bush though, anyone has them in their gardens in Auckland?
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©