Dreams have the unfortunate habit of remaining unfulfilled so it is always a delight to have one come true. As the years have passed I have learnt to keep my dreams simple so, on this cusp of summer time, the fruition of my simple dream to have lunch at a table in the garden was gratifying, and surprising. The surprise lay in the taste of the food or, to be clear, in the apparent increase in flavour of this particular dish that I have eaten, often, this winter but, being winter, I have eaten it indoors. The thought of a dish of Toulouse sausages and lentils conjures up the warm flickering fire light of a cosy, rustic kitchen and that is how I have enjoyed it, at intervals, over the last six months. Today had the feeling of an early summer’s day but winter food was in the pot.
To me there is little question that the flavours of food are more clearly defined when it is served warm, rather than very hot. My sudden decision to eat outside created the perfect conditions for the sausages and lentils to achieve this ideal temperature on its way from the kitchen to the great outdoors. I am a firm supporter of the Nigel Slater school of food photography….it needs to be done quickly as I want to eat the food. If I didn’t want to eat the food, I wouldn’t be taking a picture of it. There was a large period of my life when I regularly took an unconscionably long time to take pictures of food that I didn’t particularly like. That is the lot of a professional food photographer. Not being paid means one is no longer professional, ergo shooting very quickly and having a good lunch is allowed.
The Puy lentils had been cooked yesterday. Carrot, celery,onion and garlic are finely chopped and slowly cooked in olive oil. I like this to be a slow, harmonious process as the mirepoix needs to soften rather than brown. Puy lentils no longer need to be sieved and turned over in order to remove grit and small stones of the volcanic soil of Le Puy. I put them in a saucepan, just covering them in cold water, and bring them quickly to the boil. Rinse them immediately under cold, running water and they are ready to be added to the mirepoix. Season them lightly and cover them with vegetable stock adding the sausages, that have been previously browned in a pan, Cover the casserole and cook gently for about 40 minutes. Look out the window to check that the sun is shining, serve yourself and slowly walk to a well positioned table in the garden. A sip of wine, flick out the white napkin and tie it around your neck et regalez vous.