The tradition harks all the way back from Roman times.
One sheet of puff pastry (round or rectangular)
200 gr. small dried lentils
2 large carrots
one stalk celery
2 medium shallots (or small onions)
one bay leaf
one 1/2 cm thick slice of bacon cut into small cubes
3 tbsp. tomato concentrate (or tomato paste)
1 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
One cotechino: Cover the cotechino with plenty of cold unsalted water in a large pan. Add a bay leaf
and bring to a gentle boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Leave the cotechino in the hot water until ready to use.
PROCEDURE (for the lentil stew)
1. Rinse lentils and cover with water to soak 2 -3 hrs.
2. Drain lentils and cover twice the quantity (about 4 cups) with cold water.
3. Bring gently to a boil and continue simmering for 15 minutes.
4. In the meantime saute’ the chopped shallots, carrots and celery in a little olive oil.
5. When the vegetables are soft add the cubed bacon and saute’ 2 or 3 more minutes.
6. Add the sauteed mixture to the lentils along with the salt, bay leaf and tomato concentrate.
7. Continue simmering for another 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are tender and done.
Procedure for the pastry
1. Unroll the pastry and cut out rounds with a pastry cutter to fit cupcake tins. Prick all over with a fork.
2. Grease the tins with a little butter and drape each round over a tin. Cut out stars with a cutter.
3. Bake the pastry cups in a preheated 180deg C (375deg F) preheated oven for 12-15 min. or until golden.
4. Unmold them and cool them on a cooling rack.
5. Brush the stars with a little beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame or cumin seeds if desired.
6. Bake stars separately at the same temperature for 10 minutes. Remove them to a cooling rack.
When ready to serve fill each pastry cup with a slice of the cooked cotechino. Top with some of the lentil stew and decorate with half a slice of the cotechino and a few pastry stars. Serve with a fresh salad.