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Pork and fennel meatballs with braised lentils

Midweek Main
Serves 4
Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 10min

We're big fans of Tuscan sausages, which are flavoured with fennel seeds, chilli and plenty of fat. They can be hard to come by over here, so I have echoed those flavours in these meatballs.


1 banana shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 egg
¾ tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
salt and black pepper
400g pork mince
100g pancetta slices, roughly chopped
½ tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
60ml olive oil, plus 2 tbsp extra to serve
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the flat of a knife
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
2 bay leaves
2 sage leaves, plus 2 tsp extra, finely sliced, to serve
15g dried porcini
salt and black pepper
180g puy lentils
250ml white wine
500ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges to serve


  1. Blitz the first six meatball ingredients and plenty of pepper in a food processor, then add the other ingredients except the oil and blitz again until the mix comes together. With lightly oiled hands, form the mix into 12 meatballs weighing about 50g each, squeezing them tightly as you go, so they hold together.
  2. Heat a tablespoon and a half of oil in a large, nonstick saute pan on a medium-high flame. Once very hot, fry half the meatballs for four to five minutes, turning them regularly, until golden brown all over (turn down the heat if they stick to the pan or colour too quickly). Repeat with the remaining meatballs and oil. Transfer to a dish (along with any fat) and wipe the pan clean.
  3. Put the first six ingredients for the lentils, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper in the same pan on a high heat. When the oil starts to bubble, turn the heat to medium-low and gently fry for 10 minutes, until the shallots are soft and golden brown. Stir in the lentils, raise the heat to high, then pour in the wine and let it bubble away for three minutes. Add the stock and 300ml water, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for half an hour, stirring now and then. Cover the pan, cook for 10 minutes more, until the lentils are soft but still hold their shape, then return the meatballs (and any fat) to the pan, cover and leave to cook through – six or seven minutes.
  4. Drizzle with the remaining two tablespoons of oil, scatter with the parsley and remaining sage, and serve hot with the lemon wedges.