Saturday, 29 June 2013

Hearty lentil, fennel & tomato soup


I sit here in my office looking out of my arch window and watch the rain stream on. I can hear the cars driving by through showery puddles and the trickling of water coming down the pipes of my house and into little ponds. It's a peaceful sound and perfect hot soup weather.

This soup is a beauty. When I think of cooked tomatoes I think of tasty comfort food. This combination of lentils, tomato & fennel is homey Italian food at its simplist and best. What I adore about soups, aside from the fact that they warm up any wintery day, is that you throw everything in a pot and once it has come to the boil, you simply reduce the heat and get on with something around the house or computer.

Everybody knows lentils are good for you: high in protein, iron & B vitamins (particularly B3). Fennel is good for digestion and tummy troubles. So we know this soup is good for you, and nourishing on a comfort level, but food isn't just about that for me; it's also about passion and it's about the story that the ingredients tell when paired together. It's a romance, a friendship, and chance meeting of minds or bodies.

The flavours of the fennel, tomato & herbs are so complimentary they wrap their arms around each other in a love filled moment of joy. You have the sweet rich fruity notes of cooked tomato then the earthy almost sandy texture of the full bodied lentils and along comes the aniseed-y fennel notes that freshen and lighten up this soup as it does this little dance on your palette. It's so perfectly balanced it’s an old love affair rich in history!
If you haven't played with this combination, then do, it's good, it will become a winter staple, something you pull out of your hat on those cold, drizzly days to cheer up friends and family. I love it with fresh olive bread & herby pesto.  

Makes = 4 medium bowls 
1 cup puy lentils (or beluga or green)
2 small fennel bulbs, chopped finely include feathery tips
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbs Italian herbs
1 tps good salt
add pepper to taste
3 cups filtered water, and more as needed

Put the lentils, onion, fennel & garlic in a medium size saucepan and cover with 3 cups of water. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer.

Add the Italian herbs and pepper but not the salt (it prevents lentils from cooking).

Some lentils can be thirstier than others, so if needed, add a little more water. Be sure to keep the lentils and fennel covered in water but not too much. You want to cook them not drown them and we want this soup to be thick and hearty.

Once the lentils and fennel are soft, add the tomatoes and salt and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Season the soup to your taste if needed.

I like to blend a little of the soup with a stick blender (barmix), not too much as I love the body of the lentils and the soft fennel pieces falling apart in my mouth.

Garnish with pepper, olive oil & herb pesto if desired.

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