Saturday 19 October 2013

Winter lentil soup...with BACON

Yes, winter is coming, and that means SOUP.  Yes, soup is warming, easy to make, and budget friendly.  You can even use it to get your family to eat vegetables AND lentils.

The secret?  


It's always the answer, isn't it?  Unless you are baking...then the answer is butter.  Mmmm...butter...

I love how you can turn some tired, old vegetables into a family feast by just cooking them in a bit of stock.  I'm currently aiming for soup one night a week, as it is cheap and so easy to throw together.  I can prepare it in the morning while 2 out of three children are in other people's care and it will taste great later.  Indeed, the flavour improves as the hours pass.  Ideally I like to make enough that I can freeze half for another evening, but I only have so much space in my fridge for ingredients and only so much space in my shopping bags to lug all the vegetables home.  I usually have at least enough leftovers  for my lunch the next day.

My usual standby is a variation on the ingredients below.  No, I don't know how to flip around the photos yet.  But I am clever enough to take them on my iPad and upload them, so that counts for something, right?


Ok, then.  Ingredients are usually some kind of winter root vegetable medley with an emphasis on parsnips.  Squash sometimes goes in as well, and leeks are starting to hit all the stores right now, so I got some of them as they do add a beautiful creamy onion flavour and texture.  The bacon is from our local Puddledub farm, where they have happy pigs...until they get slaughtered, that is.  Well, there's no such thing as a free lunch, as they say.

A bit of olive oil goes in the pan and then I cook the bacon a bit to release the fat.  I don't usually put this much in, but it kind of fell in.  Then in went the celery and carrots.

Once they softened, in went the parsnip.  My Australian parents introduced my to parsnip at a young age, but it was never popular where I was when growing up in America.  When I first bought it in Minnesota it was in the international food section, covered in thick wax to preserve it.  Is it more popular in the USA now?  I don't know, but thankfully everyone here in Scotland knows how wonderful it is, so it's easy to find.

I tried chopping all this stuff in the food processor once, but it wasn't as good.  It was too thinly sliced, and I like a few chunks to be left at the end.  Once the parsnips have been in for a few minutes, the leeks go in.

Then...LENTILS.  Lentils remind me of a former flatmate who got an award for her prayer at school once.  Reciting the prayer, she struck a holy pose and thanked God for lentils.

I don't think my children would thank God for lentils, but Christopher eats this soup willingly, and Catherine dips her bread in it.  I refuse to make an alternative meal for her, and hope that one day, one day she will actually eat her whole bowl of friggin' soup.  Hunger at least makes her eat a couple spoonfuls.

Last but not least goes the stock.  I usually add parsley if I have any, but this time I didn't have any lying around.  Lemon zest adds a nice touch, but I was too lazy to zest and garlic is good too.

Let it simmer for a while and mash it for a bit with a potato masher and voila!

Ok, so it looks vile.  I didn't put it in a pretty bowl, top it with a garnish and artfully place it with a side of crusty bread.  I was too busy ladling it into chipped Ikea bowls and shoving shop bought bread in the toaster.  

Winter Bacon and Lentil soup

Smoked bacon - a few tablespoons
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 parsnips, chopped
3 large leeks, trimmed and sliced
120g red lentils
1 litre stock made from 2 stock cubes
Olive Oil

Heat some oil in a large saucepan.  
Brown bacon.  
Add carrot and celery and cook until softened.  
Add parsnips and cook a few minutes more.  
Add leeks and stir to separate layers of leek.  
Add lentils and stir briefly before adding stock.  
Bring to the boil then simmer for 40 minutes.  
Mash with a potato masher to break up biggest lumps and serve.

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