Pork Sausage, Lentil, Spinach and Mushroom Stew with Soft Polenta

A ribsticking, hearty winter dish that will cure all ills.* It can be a bit of a juggling act for the novice cook, but if you time it correctly, it cooks quickly enough to be a midweek post-work meal.

*Maybe. I'm not a doctor.

Ingredients

800g good pork sausages (thick ones with a good amount of fat, from a good butcher. None of those crappy supermarket ones), peeled of their skins and sliced into meatball sized pieces
2 400g cans of brown lentils, drained
1 bunch of English Spinach (or kale, or silverbeet), washed and sliced
250g mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 750ml bottle of tomato passata

1 cup of instant polenta
Enough water to make soft polenta, as per the packet's instructions (I used A LOT – probably about 1.5L)
1 tbs German mustard
1 tsp Vegemite
1/2 cup milk
100g butter (YES)
150g grana padano, grated

Method

1. Add olive oil to a frying pan, heat on medium. Fry garlic and onion until fragrant.
2. Add the sausage pieces. Cover the fry pan with a lid. Cook until the sausages start to brown. Shake the pan occasionally.
3. While the sausages cook, heat the water for the polenta (different brands of polenta need different amounts of water). Add the Vegemite and German mustard. Bring to the boil. You may have to whisk the mustard into the water to break it up probably.
4. Add the mushrooms to the sausage pan. Stir to get them coated in the sausage fat. Simmer to allow the mushrooms to flavour the sausage fat.
5. Once the polenta 'stock' is boiling, whisk the cup of polenta into the water. Boil for another 60 seconds, still whisking. Turn the heat down to medium, whisking occasionally.
6. Back to the sausage stew. Add the lentils and tomato passata, and some salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Simmer for a few minutes.
7. Back to the polenta. Whisk in the milk and butter. Season well with salt and pepper.
8. Back to the stew. Mix in the spinach, stir, allowing the spinach to only just wilt. Then turn the heat off, putting the lid back on to retain the heat.
9. Back to the polenta. Mix the grana padano cheese in batches, whisking in between to ensure it combines well. Once it is fully combined, the grains are properly cooked, and the consistency is like cream (there should be very soft peaks on top when you lift the whisk out), turn heat on the polenta off.
10. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET THE POLENTA COOL A BIT. It is like lava. It will cool down quicker in the bowls, yes, but it will also cool down really well if you have to leave it to go to hospital with 3rd degree burns.
11. To serve, spoon the polenta into the bowl first, tilting it slightly towards you. This will leave room for the stew. Spoon big served of the stew into the space on the bowls, still with the bowl slightly tilted. Once you sit the bowls upright, the polenta and stew will sit nicely together.

You can add more grana padano cheese to the top if you prefer, but I think it doesn't really need it.

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