Simple and comforting soup
Lentil soup is one of the simplest, cheapest and easiest soups to make. It is gluten free and can easily be made vegan friendly. It's a close relative of dhal, in fact a bowl of thick meat free lentil soup topped with some spicy butter is a bowl of dhal.
To Ham or Not to Ham
Lentil soup can be made with or without ham. If you decide to use ham there is no need to buy anything expensive. 200 grammes of bacon trimmings, a few ham ribs, or for a really meaty soup try a ham hough
If you do decide to make a meaty soup, start by making the stock.
Bacon is the simplest.
- Chop 200g of bacon trimmings (more if you like) and fry them till they brown.
- Add the fried bacon and fat to the soup mixture when you add the water.
Ham Hough takes a bit more time but will add a lot more flavour. ... just be aware that the dark heavily "smoked" ones you see are very salty.
- Soak the ham hough in cold water overnight, then discard the water, to reduce the saltiness.
- Cover the hough with water and simmer until it starts to fall apart.
- Spoon off any scum that gathers on the surface.
- Fish out the hough and let it cool. Then separate the meat, chop it, and set it aside for later.
- Use the liquid to make your soup.
Other Ham can also be used. Just pop any scraps or leftovers of cooked ham into the soup and it will add extra flavour.
- 200 g of bacon or other ham optional
- 500 g red lentils
- 1 kilo carrots
- 3 leeks
- 2 onions
- Medium head of celery
- Bunch parsley
- Knob of butter optional
- The amounts above will produce about 5 litres of soup. If you want less, simply half the amounts given.
- Trim, chop and wash the leeks.
- Easiest way is to agitate the chopped leeks in a large pot of water. Then scoop the leeks out. All the grit will have sunk to the bottom.
- Roughly chop the carrots, onions and celery.
- Rinse the lentils in cold water till the water is clear. Usually half a dozen times. This cleans them and gets rid of the "dusty" taste.
- Put the lentils, carrots, onions, celery and two thirds of the leeks into a big pot. The soup will at least double in bulk. For the amounts given use a 5 Litre pot.
- Cover well with water or ham stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables and lentils are soft. Stir regularly, lentils stick easily.
- Whizz till smooth in a blender or with a blender stick.
- Finely chop the parsley and remaining leek. Add them to the soup and leave to cook in the residual heat.
- If you are making the meat version, add any ham hough you prepared earlier. A lump of butter adds a nice creaminess.
- Season to taste.
Lentil soup freezes well, so make a big batch and have a bowlful on cold winter days.