Over the years lentils have long been exposed to a lot of bad press as the staple of the brown rice brigade, the province of sandal-and-kaftan-wearing earth mothers or penurious students. But despite these mildly ridiculous associations their Zelig-like tendency to be transformed can add body, texture and a robust flavour to all manner of soups, stews and dips.Elevated by their accompanying seasonings they can peg whats in your pot up a notch or two.
Too right they may be very cheap and filling, but that doesn't mean they're only
for skint students or die-hard old hippies. Well today was one of those dank, dull days when the weather gets into your bones and you crave go-to comfort food and warmth.The last thing I felt like doing was stepping outside in the rain and negotiating the market or shops. I needed to liquidise my assets. Pure and simple, I craved the ordinary, something simple and wholesome.Like a "Souper trooper I knew beams were going to blind me".Turning to the internet I had forgotten how many good soups the much maligned Martha Stewart had in her vocabulary.I looked no further, there it was, red lentil with sage and bacon.I reminded myself of the principle that a soup plate or any plate for that
matter should consist of no more than three main ingredients and the
result will always be pure happiness. Very simple and very wholesome, this is the sort of thing you can throw
together with stuff you've probably already got tucked away in the
cupboard or fridge.
Sometimes it takes the most confidence to do the simplest things but almost anyone can make, in a short time, a soup which is superior in flavour and has more nutritional value
than the commonly available packet or tinned soups.Further advantages are the comparative cheapness of home-made soups, and the fact that you know exactly what you are putting into them.
The blending of flavours in a soup is the most important and yet the most difficult part of it´s making.For a start, it is essential to appreciate that the more witty and complex the mixture of flavours in a soup, the more confusing and unappetising it becomes.The careful choice of a few well flavoured ingredients will give the best results, while the philosophy of throwing a little of everything into the pot may occasionally give edible results but this is more to do with good luck than good judgement.The simplest soups with the freshest of ingredients prepared quickly with the minimum of fuss can be by far the most successful.Freshness is the optimum here and it is futile to think of soup as away of using up vegetables which otherwise should be heading for the bin.
Red lentil soup with sage and bacon
A Dhaalesqe dish that for me was Scrumdiddlyumptious.
125g (4 ounces) bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 soup spoon pork dripping
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
10 fresh sage leaves, minced, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cups red lentils
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups homemade or canned chicken stock
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes.
Add the garlic, onion, and carrots to saucepan. Cook vegetable mixture over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the minced sage, and cook 1 minute more.
Add the lentils, cumin, and chicken stock; stir to combine. Simmer until lentils are cooked and falling apart, 20 to 25 minutes.Add more stock if you think the soup is too thick.
To serve, divide the hot soup among four soup plates.
Robust and delicious enough not to leave you wanting more.