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· Culture Notes: Lentil & White Bean Soup

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Culture Notes: Lentil & White Bean Soup
by Dain

This is the soupiest of soups.

Your chowders, your consommés, even the most velvety of tomato soups have nothing on the humble lentil. It's a long list of ingredients, but cheerfully cheap, and it makes the most of what's already in your pantry, a throw-everything-in-the-pot kind of soup. It doesn't require neatness, fresh herbs and homemade stock are not necessary, though the more solicitude you take to build up the flavours at each stage, the better it will taste.

Not too pretty to look at, but is it ever tasty.
    3 strips of bacon, sliced into half-inch chunks
    4 stalks of celery
    3 medium carrots
    2 medium onions
    4 cloves garlic
    4 medium tomatoes, on the vine, peeled
    1/2 tsp thyme
    1/4 tsp rosemary
    dash of pepper
    1 bay leaf
    2 chicken stock cubes
    4 cups chicken stock
    water, to pad the broth
    1/3 cup white beans
    1/2 cup lentils 1/2 cup flat parsley (optional)
First, wash your beans and lentils thoroughly. The beans you can soak, just to soften up slightly. The lentils will cook more quickly, and do not require a presoak. Then, chop your carrots, celery, and onions—the classic mirepoix—quite roughly, but evenly sized. The garlic I crush and slice into chunks: the idea is to allow the flavour to infuse, but not take over as a mince would. Drop the tomatoes into boiling water for thirty seconds, until the skin is easily removed, and chop coarsely. Conserve the vine. This is all the prep that is required.

Fry the chunks of bacon in a large pot. When the fat has rendered and the bacon has crisped up and turned brown, drain off, reserving a tablespoon or two. Porkfat is delicious with legumes. Perhaps in its own way, this is bacon soup.

Add the chopped onions and garlic. Once they start to soften, the celery and carrots, for a few minutes until they begin to sweat. Add the thyme and rosemary, pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes. Personally, I prefer using fresh tomatoes because they don't alter the texture as tomato paste would; I throw in the vine for extra flavour. Add the bay leaf, two stock cubes, the stock, and water till the broth is twice the volume: the lentils and beans form a heavy sediment, so I like having plenty of broth. Once the soup is at a boil, add the lentils and beans, and cook till tender. About five minutes before serving, coarsely chopped parsley is a nice addition.

I make a big pot of it, as it freezes well. It's nice and comforting on a chilly, overcast afternoon with a tart Honeycrisp apple and toasted sourdough, maybe a few slices of good cheddar.

10/25/2012 [8]

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