Our village has just started an annual festival for the olive harvest. The first was last year and it was successful enough for the organisers to put a lot more effort into making it bigger and better. One of the events is a night market in our town square. A wonderful collection of olive producers, restaurants and craft stalls creating a great atmosphere and now attracting those from out of town as well as locals. The evening was the perfect wintry night, crisp and still. As we walked down to the square we could see the lights twinkling and hear the live music. Wandering around the square and the stalls the choices were wide – you could choose mulled wine, hot chocolate, locally brewed beer, eat a great selection of foods and be tempted to buy all kinds of thing that you don’t need but certainly want. I knew that by the time we got home it would be great to have a hot pot of soup ready and waiting, so earlier in the afternoon started cooking. The night before, Friday, was the end of the week and my usual grocery shopping night. I was un-inspired looking at the meats and ended up buying only a bacon hock. Lucky that – as it was perfect for the soup. The rest of the ingredients were pretty much dictated by what was in the pantry. Most of the recipe ingredients below can easily be substituted – do whatever your taste buds or stores dictate. Hard to go wrong.
Bacon & Lentil Soup
150 g puy lentils, washed and drained
150 g split red lentils, washed and drained
use any combination of split peas, lentils etc – puy lentils are good to use though as they keep their shape even when having been cooked for a long time
1 bacon hock, around 700g – but don’t worry too much if it is smaller or larger
1 onion, chopped finely
2 to 3 carrots, finely diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh chilli – use more or less as you wish. This amount just gave a bit of depth to the soup, though not ‘heat’
2 litres of water or stock – I used about 2 litres of chicken stock
1 can chopped Italian tomatoes – well, don’t worry too much if they aren’t Italian! Mine needed to be chopped – as they were whole.
Place onion, garlic, carrots, garlic, chilli and hock into a deep stock pot. Add the can of tomatoes and then cover with the water or stock and add as much salt and pepper as you wish. (If you are using bought stock then remember this may already be quite salty – better to under salt than over).
Bring to the boil, put a lid on the pan and then reduce heat and simmer very gently for around 1 to 2 hours until the lentils are tender and the meat is coming off the bone. Once cooked, take the hock out of the pan. Pull the skin off and then strip meat from the bone/s. Take a couple of cups of the soup mixture and put through blender and add back to soup. This gives a bit of texture rather than being too watery. Add back the meat. Taste, and add more salt/pepper if required. At this stage you can cool and reheat later, or serve. This probably makes enough for around 6 people. It will certainly do us a couple of meals with a lunch thrown in.
Serve with crusty bread. I made some herbed bread rolls – and they went perfectly with the soup. Plus I even managed to have soft inside and crusty outside. Yay, I almost reach the bread making heights of Mr MWCED!