Friday, December 12, 2008

Soup is Awesome.

Spinach and Lentil StewImage by cowfish via Flickr

Despite waking up late, I made grill cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate for the boys for their breakfast. I thought with exams starting today, they needed something a little more substantial than cold cereal.

Even though it's full on late spring here in Peru, my family loves eating home made soup. I decided to nourish that love today with some Lentil Soup. Man, is it tasty. All the 'flavor' ingredients here can be tweaked as you see fit - use more bacon if you like! I don't use a recipe or measure, so all this stuff is 'pretty close'. Nothing has to be exact! Close enough is close enough. ;)

1 tbsp olive oil
4 slices Bacon, cut up in 1" pieces
1 lb kielbasa or similar smoked sausage (1/2 Kilo)
1/2 cup diced onion
3 carrots, diced
1/2 tbsp basil
1/2 tbsp garlic (or crush a couple of fresh cloves)
2 bay leaves
2 cups of dried lentils
6-8 cups water
3 italian (plum) tomatoes - peeled, deseeded and crushed or coarsely chopped.
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup spinach, in thinly sliced
Salt/Pepper to taste

Around 6 servings
It's a good idea to have everything cut up and ready before you start.

1) Start with a 5-6 quart soup pot or stock pot.
Mine looks similar to this:
2) Over medium high heat, put in the olive oil, the bacon, and your sliced up sausage. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the bacon starts to look 'cooked'.

3) Add the onions and carrots, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to become transparent.

4) Toss in the basil, garlic, bay leaf and cook for another 2 minutes, making sure to stir everything together.

5) Dump in the lentils and tomatoes, and enough water to cover everything + a couple of inches extra.

6) Cook on high heat until it comes to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Leave simmering for at least an hour. I cook mine a couple of hours, because I like my lentils sort of disintegrated. Add more water if needed.

7) Add the tomato paste, and gently stir to blend it into the soup.

8) Taste it - add salt as needed. I don't want to give a specific amount, because it depends on your taste and how salty your bacon and sausage are. Here in Peru, the bacon isn't super salty, and neither is the sausage I use. I ended up using about 4 tsps of salt. Add pepper if you like that sort of thing. ;)

9) Right before serving, add the spinach and stir until it's wilted.

Enjoy this delicious soup! And don't eat the bay leaves ;)

Some changes you can make:
-Try using bacon flavor cubes (like chicken bouillon cubes) instead of bacon to cut a little fat.
-Instead of tomatoes and tomato paste, stir in 1 can of diced tomatoes. Hunt's has some good flavored diced tomatoes that can make some really subtle but tasty changes to the flavor.
- Leave out the meat completely and use vegetable bouillon cubes for flavor to have a really hearty vegetarian meal.
- Cook it down to a thicker stew consistency, and serve over your favorite rice for a complete meal.

I'm really sorry I don't have pictures of this, but my camera has decided to stop working. Sometime after the new year, I'll get that taken care of and start putting pictures of all the food we eat.
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