Sunday, March 30, 2008

WTSIM Lentil Soup

Food and Family is two today! I had meant to celebrate my blog's second birthday with a post on cakes, as Charlotte did when her blog turned two recently, but then I remembered that the deadline for WTSIM is tomorrow, I haven't posted anything foodie for ages and happen to have just cooked an enormous batch of lentil soup which fits in with Jeanne's theme of pulses. So I'm celebrating extremely quietly on leftover soup and bread from our Autumn Festival, amid the fallout of piles of dirty dishes from feeding twenty people and then finding our borehole pump has broken on a Saturday night. This effectively means no running water until we can get the electrician out tomorrow morning (hopefully). Buckets are filled from our rainwater tanks and drinking water bought in 5 liter containers from the supermarket. Luckily it was hot enough to swim today, so we're not too smelly!

We didn't get much mists and mellow fruitfulness for our Autumn Festival yesterday - instead we had summer drawing out an extended last blast, so I was baking and cooking soup with the doors shut to keep out the hotter outside air.

My lentil soup recipe is a classic Italian one from Marcella Hazan. Perfectly simple it brings out the flavour of the lentils and then I add my secret ingredient - ham stock from our Christmas or Easter gammon, hoarded in the freezer for just such a moment. It brings an extra background smokiness that lifts a great soup to the sublime. Don't worry if you don't have any though - this soup has enough flavour even just made with water. In Italy I used to get the wonderful tiny Castelluccio lentils for this soup, in England I bought the Le Puy ones from France. Here I just use the ordinary cheap, small brown ones. Each sort bring their own character to the soup, the exquisite tiny Castelluccio ones are my favourite, with a firm texture and nutty flavour but it is worth making even with the cheapest lentils, as long as they are the brown ones.

Here is the original recipe from Marcella Hazan:

Italian Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
40g/1 ½ oz butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
30g/ 1 ¼ oz bacon
220g/8oz tinned tomatoes, chopped with their juice
220g/8 oz brown lentils
1 litre/ 1 ¼ pints broth
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Saute the onion in the oil and butter over a medium heat, until light gold.

Add celery and carrot and sauté for another few minutes.

Add bacon and cook for another minute.

Add tomatoes and their juice and cook at a gentle simmer for 25 minutes uncovered, stirring every now and then.

Add the lentils stirring well into the tomato mix then add the broth, salt and pepper.

Cook, covered, at a steady simmer until the lentils are tender (usually about 45 minutes, but taste them to make sure). Add water if the lentils absorb all the liquid.

Just before serving stir in the parmesan and a tiny knob of butter.

I tend to make it with rather less precise amounts and don't always have fresh parmesan available, so often serve it without. When I'm using ham stock I leave out the bacon, as it doesn't need it then. If you ever have a fresh parmesan crust leftover, you can add that to the soup at the lentil stage for even more depth of flavour.

Of course we also made pumpkin soup yesterday to use up the insides of these...


  1. Oh, congratulations, Kit! Two years is a great achievement in this fast-paced, ever-changing Internet :)

    I, a very reluctant chef, have recently discovered lentil soup for myself. I used a dash of liquid smoke in my first attempt a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I'll try your recipe next time around.

  2. Congratulations on your two year blog-birthday. I think soup is as good a way to celebrate as cake, and your lentil soup looks lovely.

  3. Happy 2nd Birthday!
    Now I have to clean my computer screen! Your photos are so delicious I can almost taste... drool...

  4. Soup looks yummy! I'm impressed with two years blogging too.

    Yuck about the water situation. Hope that gets fixed soon!

  5. Dear Kit. Thnkyou for this delicious recipe. Only this morning over breakfast Rosie (my 13 yo) said in response to the rainly and windy weather we are ezpereincing today, "hey mum, now that we're getting close to winter you can start making soups again!", She is a big fan of flavoursome brews (comfort food).

    Happy birthday to your lovely blog. I realised as I read you post that I have missed my blog's 1st birthday which was in Feb!

  6. Happy blogday to you, happy blogday to you! Well done on making it to two years and it's been a pleasure getting to know you through your blog - and meet you in person! This soup sounds wonderful and I love, love, love the idea of using gammon stock in it. I always wonder what to do with all that lovely stock and now I know! Thanks - and thanks for takign part in WTSIM :)

  7. mmm..the soup looks tasty. Happy birthday to your blog!

  8. Congrats on your 2 year blogversary! I've enjoyed every post and photo here! The soup looks and sounds delicious. I'm printing it up for a fall soup day. Although our weather it seems is more like November than April in the US Midwest.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!