Lentils and spaetzle, or more precisely: lentils with spaetzle and Vienna sausages, are a Swabian national dish. After we have explained how to prepare the best spaetzle by hand, and also cheese spaetzle, there is simply no getting around this dish. And it is delicious.
First about the sausage: in Germany they are mostly called Wiener (i.e. with reference to Austria), whereas in Austria they are called Frankfurter (i.e. vice versa with reference to Germany). And there are about a hundred other names, including Saiten in Swabia. Wikipedia is recommended for details.
The sausage (at least two per person) needs mustard, medium hot. For the spaetzle you need flour and eggs, of course. You also need greenish-brown, flat lentils, which also have very different names. In Germany they are usually called “Tellerlinsen” (literally: plate lentils) and they resemble the somewhat brownish pardina lentil from Spain.
Other ingredients are onion, root vegetables (carrot, celery, leek, parsley root, parsnip…), butter, a little flour, some tomato paste, meat or vegetable stock, bay leaf, clove, allspice, salt, pepper and – very important – vinegar, preferably dark balsamic vinegar.
The spaetzle are prepared and warmed briefly with a little butter in the pan before serving. The sausages are heated in hot but not boiling water (in boiling water they would quickly burst open, spoiling the fun). The mustard comes from the jar. So the only thing left to cook are the lentils. And that’s how it’s traditionally done:
If you have the time, soak the lentils in cold water the day before. You can also cook them dry, but of course they cook from the outside and by the time they are sufficiently cooked on the inside, the outside can fall apart and become slightly mushy. Don’t worry: both taste good. Just for better texture and appearance, soaking is recommended.
The onion and root vegetables are peeled and very finely diced, no bigger than the uncooked lentils. This is already most of the work for this dish. Do not throw away the peelings and cuttings, they should be used to make vegetable broth.
It is then time to turn on the cooker. Melt the butter over medium-high heat and stir in the flour to make a simple roux in a few minutes, which should be allowed to brown slightly.
Then add the diced onion and sweat for about three minutes.
Next, add the tomato paste and root vegetables and sauté for another three minutes.
Now add the (soaked) lentils and the broth. We put the bay leaf, cloves and allspice in a spice ball so that we can easily remove them again at the right time. An alternative would be to add these spices to the broth in a paper filter, for example a sealed tea or coffee filter (actually, a stapler can be handy here).
After a good half hour, the lentils should be soft. But this can also vary considerably with a natural product. Lentils that have not been soaked will certainly need around 20 minutes more. Just stir and taste occasionally.
Finally, season the lentils with salt, black pepper from the mill and the vinegar. They should definitely taste slightly sour, that is an important component in this dish.
That’s all there is to it. A traditional, simple and delicious dish that has stood the test of time. You could sprinkle chopped parsley on top. But you could also not.
And may the taste be with you.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
300 g lentils (maximum 400 g for large appetites)
1 large onion
Approx. 500 g root vegetables (celery, carrots, leek, parsley root and/or parsnip)
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 – 2 bay leaves
3 – 4 cloves
3 – 4 allspice pods (optional)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1.5 l meat or vegetable stock (if more liquid is needed: add water)
3 tbsp vinegar (we recommend dark balsamic vinegar)
salt and black pepper from a mill
8 Vienna sausages (if you want; 2 per person is a good amount)