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Memories of a complicatedly connected family in France

Passport & Plate - Braised chicken, sausage and lentils

France | Thursday, 5 March 2015 | 5 photos

Braised chicken, sausage and lentils

Serves 8

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 chicken thighs or thigh fillets
8 good quality pork sausages (Toulouse sausages work especially well)
160g smoked bacon lardons
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
4 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g puy lentils
700ml chicken stock
700ml white wine
black pepper
400g creme fraiche

- Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish and brown the chicken, skin side down (if using whole thighs) for 5-7 mins until golden. Turn over and seal the other side for 2 mins before removing onto a plate.
- In the same pan brown the sausages before removing to the plate with the chicken.
- Add the lardons to the pan and brown for 5 mins.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, thyme and garlic and cook for 5 mins.
- Add the lentils and stir, then add the stock and white wine. Bring to a simmer, season, and add sausages and chicken (skin side up if using whole thighs). Simmer on a medium heat for 25-30 mins until the chicken is cooked and the lentils are tender.
- Stir in the creme fraiche.

I like to serve this with a crusty white bread and a green salad with a herby, mustardy vinaigrette.

My recipe story:
"Divorce runs in the family" - the words casually uttered by my Great Uncle a couple of years ago. After months of fretting about how he was right, and that I must be doomed, I started to think about how it actually wasn't all that bad. Looking back to time spent with my extended family in Normandy during my early teenage years really made me understand the joys of being part of such a complicatedly connected group! My father's father Grandpa John and his wife Mary would book a wonderful barn in a tiny hamlet - La Chapelle-Cécelin - for their children and grandchildren every Easter, and they were the best holidays of my life.
My memories of these trips revolve around the incredible food we ate, whilst getting to properly know each other, round a huge wooden table.
Each morning Grandpa John would take the children, aged between two and fourteen, to a tiny bakery which awaited us at the end of a quaint lane surrounded by wild flowers. We would return with buttery croissants, warm baguettes and glistening pains aux raisins.
At weekends our motley crew would go on chaotic visits to the market in Villedieu-les-Poeles, the nearest town. I can vividly remember the sights, sounds and smells. Birds packed into cages, cheese you could smell for miles, women selling the most beautiful flowers, stalls of vegetables bigger, brighter and juicier than any I'd ever seen, and stands selling wonderful dishes that we would take home for our evening meal around our huge table. My favourite of these was an incredible one-pot dish, which was made in a huge pan, wider than my arm span, containing various, sometimes unidentifiable but always delicious meats along with lentils, garlic and white wine. I can still recall the smell wafting across the market, and remember how incredibly delicious it was - I think we went back every year.
This recipe is the closest I've come to replicating it, and the experience of making this dish always transports me back to Normandy all those years ago.

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