After a couple of months of holidays and feasting, I needed to go easy on myself mentally and physically, especially for the sake of my stuffed tummy (and health!). So, I started to prepare light and satisfying meals, and one of my favourites is invariably soup.
Despite Singapore’s warm weather, I simply adore soup. It can be the simple Chinese “ABC” soup (pork rib soup with carrots and potatoes) or creamy rich mushroom soup. Everything about soup screams comfort. Effort is taken to prepare the ingredients, putting them together in a pot and carefully cooking and stirring over the hot stove. And when I take that first sip, I know it will make any sort of bad day go away. It is a hug in a bowl.
I particularly love this lentil soup as the preparation is simple and in less than an hour, you get a beautiful bowl of soup. Despite the simplicity, the flavour of the soup is pretty intense. The recipe calls for my favourite Puy lentils which hold their shape and hence do not turn the soup into a bowl of mush. The lentils not only contribute great flavour, but also bulk up the soup, giving you a truly satisfying meal. Serve it accompanied by warm crunchy Parmesan toast and it will leave you smiling. It certainly leaves me with a wide smile.
Puy lentil soup with Parmesan toasts
(Adapted from Bill Granger’s Bill’s Sydney Food)
There are certain ingredients that I added and some that I omitted from the original recipe. This is largely determined by what happens to be in my fridge. Feel free to swop any of the vegetables – if you do not have carrots on hand, use pumpkin. If you like to keep the soup and toast vegan, omit the Parmesan rind and cheese. It will not dramatically impact the flavour. It will still be a delicious bowl of soup.
Recipe type: Lunch, Dinner
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Serves 4 as a main
Puy lentil soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped carrots (about 2 small carrots)
½ cup chopped white onion (about 1 onion)
½ cup sliced leek, white part only (about 1 stalk of leek)
4 gloves of garlic, finely chopped
400g tin chopped Italian tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock
2 dried bay leaves
½ cup lentils du Puy, washed and drained
1 teaspoon (kosher) salt (optional) (you may or may not need salt, depending on individual taste; you can use table salt if you do not have kosher salt)
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red chilli flakes
In a large cooking pot, melt the butter and oil over medium heat.
Once the butter is completely melted, add in the carrots, onion and leeks and cook for 8-10 minutes. Do stir the vegetable mixture occasionally and make sure they don’t get browned. Once the vegetable mix is slightly softened, add in the garlic and crushed red chilli flakes and stir to incorporate.
Add in the chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock, bay leaves and parmesan rind to the vegetable mix. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes. At this point, I usually cover the pot, leaving a slight opening*.
After the soup has simmered for 15 minutes, add in the (washed) Puy lentils. Check the cooking instructions/ time on the lentil’s packaging – usually it will take about 15-20 minutes to cook. The lentils should be soft yet with a bite. So do a taste test after 10 minutes or so.
Season the soup with salt and pepper to your liking. Once that is done, remove the pot from the stove. Before serving, remove the bay leaves and Parmesan rind (if using. The rind may or may not dissolve in the soup). Serve warm with the Parmesan toasts.
You can start preparing the toast while the soup is simmering. In this way, the soup and the toast pieces will be ready at the same time.
Makes about 20 pieces.
¼ cup olive oil (60ml)
2 gloves of garlic
½ baguette, thinly sliced (you should be able to yield 20 slices)
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (Parmesan cheese)
Preheat the oven to 200oC.
Using a blender/ food processor/ immersion blender, blend the oil and garlic until smooth. It is okay if you still have tiny bits of garlic in the mixture.
Slice the baguette into thin slices (about 1cm thick) and place them on a baking tray. Using a pastry brush, brush one side (top side) of the sliced baguette with the garlic oil and sprinkle with black pepper.
Using a Microplane grater or any fine grater, grate the Parmesan cheese on top of the sliced (and oiled) baguette. Be as generous as you like with the amount.
Put the tray in the oven and bake the toasts for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown and crisp. Serve warm.
*While the soup simmers, you can start working on the Parmesan toasts.