At the risk of straying directly into the realm of cliché, winter is one of my favourite seasons where food is concerned. Why? Comfort food weather. And this easy recipe for Smoky Tomato and Lentil Soup keeps itself firmly within the comfort food perimeter.
The combination of fatty pancetta, intensely flavoursome paprika and satisfying brown lentils is a pleasing one. Whether for lunch or dinner, this easy lentil soup will leave you feel well-loved and full up for hours ahead.
Make sure to use sweet smoked paprika, as opposed to hot. Hot paprika can get surprisingly spicy when a lot is used. I recall, with tears in my eyes, my ill-fated goulash of a few months ago, into which I poured four tablespoons of hot smoked paprika.
If you’d rather a vegetarian lentil soup then feel at liberty to allow the pancetta to separate itself from the planned recipe. The resulting broth won’t suffer particularly badly from a dearth of meat, though you may lose a little of its intended richness.
Though brown lentils are the favoured option for this simple recipe, they can be harder to pin down than their green brothers. So, in the interest of mass-appeal, feel free to use green lentils, but steer clear of red; they’ll simply disintegrate to make a funny dal. Except you won’t be laughing.
Smoky Tomato and Lentil Soup
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 50g pancetta, diced(optional)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika (sweet)
- 200g brown lentils
- 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
- 400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes
- a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- a twist of black pepper
- a handful of fresh spinach, shredded
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the diced pancetta and cook until golden brown and crispy. Tip in the onions and cook until translucent.
- Add the garlic, quickly followed by the paprika and lentils. Top up with the chicken stock and tomatoes.
- Stir, cover with the lid, reduce the temperature to low and simmer until the lentils are cooked. Be careful not to let them stick.
- Once the lentils are tender season the soup generously and add the handful of chopped parsley. Serve immediately with a little shredded spinach. It’s delicious with Irish soda bread.
Cost: A dish involving lentils, paprika and tinned tomatoes is always going to be frugal. Using a good quality pancetta does increase the price a smidge, but a little goes a long way in that regard.
Even with the delicious addition of pancetta, this flavoursome and comforting smoky tomato and lentil soup recipe should set you back no more than £2.20.