Truly quick, truly homemade: Lentil Soup

I am so excited. I have a new cookbook. The River Cottage Family Cookbook
and from looking at the photographs, I can revel in the fact that there is someone out there who is as messy in the kitchen as I am.

Although none of the recipes are new to me, the format and the message are so appealing.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (sounds SO British!) and Fizz Carr are all about eating local and organic whenever possible and not shying away from the realities of food i.e.: beef actually comes from steer, sausage might be pork which is a pig.  We try to eat healthily and responsibly at our house and this book will be very inspiring.

The fun part was, the recipe that caught my eye called for things I already had in the pantry and the fridge.  So last night we had Lentil and Bacon Soup for Lots of People, only I halved the recipe because it was only the five of us, and since it was crazy Thursday, one of us was actually at music practice.  This is a fantastic soup recipe – incredibly quick and the perfect rainy evening meal. I ate three big bowls. On the side we had this goat cheese mash that I am always making with whatever the season suggests.  It’s very good.

A Fast Menu

Lentil and Bacon Soup

Goat Cheese, Garlic and Olive Oil Mash with Italian Crackers

I have no game plan for this because it’s so straight forward and fast that you really don’t need one!

Lentil and Bacon Soup – serves 4-6

(ok, ok – it looks like brown stodge but lentils aren’t loved for their beauty. Trust me – this soup has got your back)

  • 1 large onion (I used a red one)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 2-3 celery stalks
  • 5 bacon slices
  • Olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups lentils, half red, half brown or green
  • 1 1/2 quarts of stock (or water with 2-3 good bouillon cubes or boxed stock – I happened to have homemade beef broth in the freezer from Christmas ) – heated in a pot on the stove
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme – or a handful of fresh sprigs
  • 1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
  • Worcestershire Sauce – a couple of shakes
  • Shredded cheddar or parmesan
  1. Peel the onions and carrots. Wash and trim the celery.  Cut into 1″ chunks and pulse in the food processor until finely chopped – don’t go too far and make a soft, wet, mess.
  2. Slice the bacon into thin little shreds.
  3. Film the bottom of the pan with olive oil and turn the heat on low.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and bacon and stir.  Put the lid on the pan and let cook gently for 15 minutes.  The vegetables and bacon should soften and not brown much, shrinking down in the pan. Stir 2 or three times, every 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the lentils and stir.  Clear a little spot in the middle of the pan and add the tomato paste.  Allow to cook for a minute, stirring.
  5. Add the stock and stir gently and turn the heat to medium.
  6. Grind into the pot a lot of black pepper and salt to taste – go carefully; with bacon and  Worcestershire sauce this could get overly salty easily.  Add the thyme and Worcestershire.
  7. Raise the heat and bring to a boil with the lid slightly askew. Simmer for half and hour; then taste to see if the brown or green lentils are quite done.  When the red lentils are soft and the green have a little firmness left, the soup is ready.  Taste for salt and serve with grated cheese at the table.

*a wiser person than I am – ok it was Nigella Lawson – wrote that she keeps bacon in the freezer in 5 slice packages – that would have been a good thing to have for this soup

Goat Cheese, Garlic and Olive Oil Mash

I love this stuff.  You can change what you add for flavor depending on the season. In the summer I use tender herbs like chives, basil, parsley, or cilantro.  A splash of cream.  Another of fruity green olive oil.  This variation is for winter.

  • 1 small log of soft mild goat cheese, 4-6 oz
  • a splash of fruity, peppery, green olive oil
  • a splash of cream
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper

Mash the goat cheese with enough olive oil and cream to make it easy to spread and no longer at all crumbly.  Grate or crush the garlic using a microplane grater or a garlic press, and stir into the goat cheese. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.  Swirl artfully into a pretty bowl and drizzle more green olive oil on top, if you are feeling fancy.  Although if Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall saw you do that he might raise an eyebrow.  He doesn’t seem to go for frills or serving dishes.

The crackers I like are those ones referred to as crostini and are made of nothing more than flour and olive oil.  Sometimes they are seasoned with sea salt or rosemary.

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