Thursday, 11 March 2010

Simple, not necessarily plain

Another Thursday comes around, which means Flatmate Fantastico is back from climes Dutch and looking forward (I hope) to a home cooked meal. Nothing quite like a week of restaurants to really prepare a person for some comfort food.

As luck would have it, the weather - surprise, surprise for London - has got a bit cold and windy, so it's definitely a night for soup. I've decided to break with tradition and although there are tomatoes involved, the usual butter beans, green beans and basil are being given a break.

Tonight, it's tomato, puy lentil and pancetta soup, to the rowdy accompaniment of the Tiger Lillies. Certainly makes for some interesting solo kitchen salsa!


200g cubed pancetta (about 1/2cm cubes)
1 tbs good olive oil
2 shallots finely diced
1 cup uncooked puy lentils, well rinsed
3 sprigs fresh thyme, plus a few extra for garnish
1 litre vegetable stock (I don't have space to keep home made stock - I like the Knorrs jelly stock: 1 tub to 1 litre water)
1 inch piece parmesan rind (idea pulled from Molly's chicken stew with a weapon - thanks!)
700g jar passata
optional - sufficient slow roasted baby tomatoes for serving (around 20 mins at 160C in an oven dish)

In a stock pot on a low heat, start cooking off the pancetta. Bring the heat up once the fat starts to render off and when the pancetta starts to brown, add the olive oil and shallots. Turn the heat down a little and saute until the shallots are transparent. Stir in the lentils until everything's got well acquainted. Throw in the thyme and add the vegetable stock and then the parmesan rind, bring up to a simmer and leave, without stirring, for about 15 minutes - you want the lentils to still have a good bite to them.

Add the pasata - half fill the bottle with water, shake to get all the rest of the tomatoey goodness, then add that to the soup as well. Allow to come back up to a simmer and cook for about another 10 minutes until the lentils are sufficiently cooked. They should still be firm, but no broken teeth, please!

Adjust the seasoning, remove the spent thyme and serve. If you've gone with the roasted tomatoes, place a few in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle the soup over them. Plonk a sprig of thyme on top and send out with crusty bread.

I think I can hear the front door now, so hopefully this recipe will survive its roadtest.

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