Lentil and bacon soup

This is one of those utterly soul-satisfying soups. It’s so thick with vegetables and lentils that you can just about stand your spoon up in it. Just the stuff for a cold night with chunks of good bread and a glass of red wine.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, finely chopped

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small red chilli (seeds and all) finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into little chunks

100g slab bacon, rind removed and diced (or use rashers)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground smoked paprika

300ml tomato passata

250g Australian Puy-style lentils

1.1-1.125 litres of water or chicken stock

sea salt, to taste

2 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves, washed thoroughly (optional)

freshly grated parmesan (optional)

to serve

Crusty bread

 

METHOD

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook it for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until its golden.

Add the garlic and chilli and cook them for 1-2 minutes. Now tip in the carrots and celery. Increase the heat, add the spices, stirring frequently, and cook for 3 minutes. Toss in the bacon and give it all another minute.

Pour in the pasta sauce and mix it in well. As soon as it starts to bubble, reduce the heat and leave it to simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

While the tomato mixture is simmering, prepare the lentils. Lentils sometimes hide little pebbles, so give them a really good wash. I usually put them in a big fine sieve and swish them around in lots of cold water in a bowl. Then I drain them and wash them around again under cold running water until the water runs clear. 

Add the lentils, along with the water or stock, to the tomato mixture. Bring this to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked but still have a bit of bite. (What I love about Puy lentils is that they tend to stay whole and keep their texture rather than disintegrating into mush.) Add some salt and lemon juice and taste the soup. Add more of each if you need it.

Just before you’re ready to serve the soup, stir in the spinach and heat it for 2-3 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted.

Ladle the soup into deep bowls and grate a little parmesan over the top.

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