(Photo by Kylea Waller)
Recently at work we had a bag of lentils that needed to be used up as we were coming up to stock take, so I decided to have a crack at lentil soup. There are many recipes for lentil soup out there, but I just went with my instincts and kept it simple. Turns out it was a success because I keep getting requests from customers and staff for the recipe, so I thought I would share it with everyone.
So here it is my Lentil Soup! The bacon bones add another level of flavour but are not absolutely essential. The bacon on the other hand, remains in the dish, and adds both flavour and texture, so should really be included, unless you’re a vegetarian of course! I’ve used bacon in this recipe, but if you can, use speck, as it has a rich deep “bacon-ie” flavour which would really take this dish to the next level. I’ve also kept the chilli to a minimum as far as the recipe below goes, but if you’re like me and enjoy a little heat, especially on a cold winters day, throw in one or two extra. As most of us know, as a general rule, the smaller the chilli the hotter they are. However do be careful, as they do still vary from chilli to chilli, even if they are the same size. If you want to get some indication before you start cooking, cut off a tiny slice from the thickest end of the chilli (this is the hottest end), and do a little taste test. It only takes a second and will help ensure you get the heat right for you.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 small onions (150g), finely diced (approx 3 mm x 3mm)
- 2 small carrots (150g), finely diced (approx 3 mm x 3mm)
- 1/2 leek (100g), finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 rashes bacon, finely diced (or if you use speck 120g, finely diced)
- 1 small red chilli, finely diced (or more, to taste)
- 1.5 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 400g crushed tomatoes
- 800ml vegetable stock (you can use water)
- 150g smoked bacon bones (not essential)
- 200g dried french green lentils
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt & pepper to taste
Find yourself a deep pot, pop the olive oil in, whack it on a medium heat, and saute the onion until it begins to soften, but not colour, approximately 4-5 mins. Add garlic, chilli and leek and cook out for 30 secs. Add your bacon and cook for 2 mins. Then add the carrots and cook until they begin to soften, approximately 5-10 mins. Cook out the tomato paste for 30 secs and then deglaze with white wine. Make sure you cook out the wine until it has almost reduced completely, approximately 1-2 mins. By this stage your kitchen should be smelling delicious.
Add the crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock, bay leaves, lentils, and finally the bacon bones if you’re using them. Cook until the lentils have swelled and are al dente and carrots are cooked through, approximately 30 - 40 mins. As you go, check the consistency making sure there is enough liquid. If you need to, add hot water until your happy with the consistency. Then take the pot off the heat.
It’s important at this point, at the end, to season your soup with salt & pepper, but not before. If you season too early, once your soup reduces down it will intensify the seasoning, and you can easily overdo it, especially as there is already salt in the dish from the bacon and tomato paste.
When seasoning, first taste your soup and then add a little salt & pepper if needed. Then repeat the process again and again, until you have the seasoning perfect. This is the most important stage, seasoning makes or brakes this dish. Over season and it will taste salty, under season and it will taste bland, both unpleasant.
Serve as is, or for a “Chef-ie” touch which is relatively easy to do at home, make a quick and simple Salsa Verde to drizzle over the top. The Salsa Verde adds colour and a freshness that cuts through and compliments the soup. Finally, chargrill some beautiful Ciabatta bread, and season with olive oil and sea salt as a side. For me this is the best bit, ripping off chunks of smokey bread and dunking it into the steamy soup. Yumm!
And thats it, time for this cook to eat.