Lentil soup is wonderful for cool weather. Its hearty and satisfying, and makes great leftovers for the next day, if there is any. It took a while for everyone to warm to this dish. They always loved red lentils, which I use to make dahl, but when it came to the small grey/black variety, that was a different matter. Maybe it was the colour. But persevering paid off. Just once every so often when they were really hungry, was all that was needed. Now its met with: yum, I love that!
This lentil soup recipe is based on Belinda Jeffery’s ‘Italian-style lentil and bacon soup’, which I copied out from a book I borrowed from the library, and marks the beginning of my love of her offerings. A jar of tomato pasta sauce forms the soup base, which seemed a little odd, but works amazingly well. She also includes sun-dried tomato pesto, which I have deleted altogether. To make up the flavour I opt for a jar of flavoured pasta sauce e.g. spicy tomato and grilled capsicum; or tomato, garlic and caramelised onion. I always check the ingredients list and choose a brand that has the least additives in the list. I feel slightly embarrassed to admit to this inclusion, but…
As for the lentils, puy lentils are usually only available at specialist delis so I use what is called, ‘French style lentils’, which I can buy from the supermarket. They too hold their shape and are small and grey/black in colour. Its really important to taste the soup before seasoning it. Unfortunately pasta sauces contain more salt than I would ordinarily use, and with the inclusion of bacon, you may find no extra salt is required.
The addition of the baby spinach does a whole lot for the brownness of this dish, giving it the pop of colour it needs to make it look a little more pleasing in the bowl. Add some crusty bread and dinner is a winner.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, cut into small pieces
- 2 stalks celery, cut into small pieces
- 3 rashers of bacon, chopped into pieces
- 350 ml pasta sauce
- 250 g Puy lentils (sometimes called French style lentils), thoroughly washed in cold water
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 250 ml water
- 1 lemon
- 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
- parmesan cheese
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and bacon and cook over a medium heat until the onion is lightly golden.
- Add the garlic, chilli, carrot and celery and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes.
- Add the pasta sauce and mix through. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Add the lentils, stock and 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are cooked. This can take up to 40 minutes. The lentils should be soft with a little bite.
- Once cooked to your liking check the seasoning and add some salt if needed. Add the juice of ½ a lemon. Taste and more if needed.
- Just before serving, add the spinach leaves and stir through. Serve with grated parmesan on top.