In case last week's Smoky Tomato-Ham Chowder wasn't a dead giveaway, I've been on a bit of a soup-making binge lately. I've been playing around with a few new recipes over the last couple of weeks, but today I'm dusting off another favourite from my personal archives to share with you.
I'm blaming this miserable grey January we've been having for this mood.
Crummy winter weather requires heavy-duty comfort food, and as far as I'm concerned, nothing quite hits the spot like a big bowl of steaming-hot soup.
This hearty lentil soup is exactly what the doctor ordered. It's flavourful and filling, thanks to the combination of tender lentils and smoky bacon, along with a delicious sherry-spiked broth that will have you reaching for a hunk of crusty bread to mop up every last drop from the bowl.
Simple and Satisfying Lentil Soup
As I mentioned earlier, this lentil soup comes from my personal archives. I can't even remember where I first got the recipe, but I've been making it pretty regularly for years and years, tinkering with the formula until it's as perfect as it can possibly be.
My not-so-secret ingredient is a splash of dry sherry, which adds a je-ne-sais-quoi that elevates this bowl of simple comfort food from farmhouse table to five star gourmet.
(That said, if you don't have a bottle of sherry in your pantry, a splash of wine or dry vermouth will do just fine. I just happen to be one of those dorks who likes the occasional pre-dinner sherry from time to time, so there's usually a bottle kicking around.)
I know the ingredients list might look a little long compared to some of the other recipes out there, but don't let that scare you off. You probably have most of these kicking around in your kitchen, and a quick trip to the supermarket will take care of the rest.
Other Variations on This Recipe
The beauty of this soup is how adaptable it is. Here are a few variations you can try if you feel like shaking things up.
- Add Some Greens: This soup is absolutely delicious with chopped kale. Simply stir in 2 cups of roughly chopped kale at the 20-minute mark, and then continue simmering as usual. (Unfortunately for me, The Mister is not a fan of kale, so I leave it out for his sake.)
- Swap Out the Bacon: Add some Spanish flair by using ½ cup diced chorizo sausage instead of bacon, or make it feel a little more French with thin slices of smoked sausage. Pancetta's pretty delicious too, though I find I miss that subtle smokiness you get from the other options.
- Make it Vegetarian: For a meatless version, omit the bacon and saute the vegetables in olive oil instead, and use vegetable broth instead of beef. I've tried this one with a vegetarian onion soup base before... so good!
This hearty lentil soup is the perfect thing to ward off the chilly winter weather. Serve with thick slices of crusty bread for wiping the bowl clean - you won't want to leave any of that flavourful sherry-spiked broth behind!
- 3 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 cup diced fennel
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- 5 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 1 ½ cups brown lentils
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried tarragon
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until browned and starting to crisp. Add the onion, carrots and fennel, and cook until onions are soft and starting to turn golden-brown, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the sherry and cook until reduced by half, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the beef broth, lentils, tomato paste, oregano, basil, tarragon and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are very tender. Discard the bay leaf. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper as needed.
- If you don't have any sherry on hand, feel free to substitute for a dry red or white wine, or a splash of vermouth.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Category: Soups
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: French