cotechino e lenticchie – italian new year’s eve

cotechinoNew Year’s Eve, and that means cotechino sausage and lentils practically everywhere in Italy. The dish is not Sicilian at all, but then there’s no real Sicilian traditional food for the last day of the year, so like the rest of the country, they borrow this rich, fatty, salty oversize banger from Emilia Romagna. According to tradition, the cotechino represents good health, and the lentils money. While lentils could be seen to resemble coins, how what is arguably the saltiest, fattiest sausage in the world can be seen as a symbol of good health for the coming year is beyond me. Perhaps it’s more a kind of test – if you can eat it without keeling over, then you must be in pretty good shape. Either way, it goes great with lentils, Italian mostarda, and, you guessed it, HP Sauce.

As you can see, I also served it up with some “normal” sausage (and when I say “normal”, I mean of course Sicilian, flavoured with salt, pepper and fennel seeds), fried breaded artichoke hearts, steamed broccoli and those evil-looking black things. These, the Darth Vaders of the legume world, are lenticchie nere di Leonforte, a rare (and horribly expensive) variety of lentils only grown in the heart of Sicily around Leonforte, in the province of Enna. They taste rich and meaty, and should be stewed simply with some carrots, celery, onion and bayleaf, then drizzled with some good olive oil, which is in fact what I did with them. Don’t think I’m going to go into detail, here though, because I’m assuming you can cook lentils, and if you can’t, then just shout and I’ll tell you another time.

The cotechino is incredibly rich, but apart from that, the rest of the meal was fairly (my wife would say strangely) subdued. The relentless festive eating is starting to take its toll on my appetite, and before long I’ll be crying out for a lightly dressed green salad. Not quite yet, though, since tomorrow we’re off to Castlebuono, where wild boar, venision and other gamey delights cooked over a wood fire await us. So, time to roll up my sleeves and take a deep breath. Twelfth Night is only five days away…

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