This dish is a welcome addition on a cold day - a classic lentil and smoked sausage casserole. The perfect bowl of braised lentils is a special thing and, for me, this is as close as it gets...
Peel and dice the vegetables, and one of the sausages, medium fine. Sauté in a medium casserole in the oil for five minutes . Add the garlic and cook for another five minutes.
Meanwhile, in another saucepan, cover the lentils with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes and leave to cool with the lid on for twenty minutes. Drain, keeping some of the water.
Add the lentils to the vegetables with the stock, water, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a simmer and check the lentils - they should be approaching the al dente stage. If so, add the mustard, chocolate and chilli - I used crema di pepperoncini but anything will do.
Poach the remaining sausages for ten minutes - I just added them to the lentils. Fish out and cool under a cold tap. Slice them on the bias approximately half a cm thick and fry in a dry pan until nicely charred on both sides.
When the lentils are done, stir in the balsamic and roasted squash, discard the herbs, arrange the slices of sausage on top of the lentils and serve -with mustard of course.
If a lentil and sausage soup is more to your liking, add more stock or water when you're cooking the lentils. A few more vegetables (kale or cavalo nero for example) will also add to the mix.