This was my girls' first exposure to lentils. A definite win. They loved it the first time I made it and every time since. Growing up, my mom always liked those "cup o' lentil" soups but I was never big on them. I certainly like these red lentils though. They are tiny, cute even, and better still take half the time to cook as brown lentils.
If you are afraid of lentils, this is a great starter recipe. Of course if you love them it would be a great addition to your favorites too. It's comforting, really tasty and very filling. The soup actually comes together pretty quickly too. You can use chicken or beef stock, they are both tasty and really enrich the flavor of the dish. Homemade is always best but in a pinch, canned or boxed will do. I do like the Pacific brand of chicken stock because it is allergen free for my daughter. And you can use two to four cups of stock and just make up the difference with water or top up with water to make the soup go a little farther. Tonight since we had company, I doubled most of the ingredients except the bay leaves and used just two cups of frozen chicken stock and the rest water. I don't recommend adding more bay as it is a very strong ingredient. (But wow, if you have lime thyme in your garden, try it!) Requests for seconds from my girls are a pretty good indicator that dinner was well received. Actually, my eldest raved over the soup the entire meal and drained two bowls of it. She's very good for my cooking ego. ☺
Tomato, Bacon and Red Lentil Soup
6 slices good, thick bacon (or more...)
2 small onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 large stalk celery, diced
½ cup red lentils
2 cans (14½ oz) diced tomatoes
1 quart chicken or beef stock (or 2 cups stock and 2 cups water)
1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced (or 1 tsp dried)
2 bay leaves
sea salt to taste
1/8 tsp lemon pepper
fresh ground black pepper
4 dashes tabasco
Saute bacon in a soup pot until slightly crisp. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Drain off all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat. Saute the celery, onions and garlic until soft. Add stock/water, cooked bacon, lentils, tomatoes, thyme and bay and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt, peppers and tabasco. Reduce heat and keep at a simmer for about 20-30 minutes, removing the bay leaves after about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally until lentils are tender. Serve with fresh crusty bread.
Sourdough or nice chewy baguettes work great for dipping!