I got chatting with a lovely woman in the therapy pool at physical therapy today, and wound up talking nonstop about food and recipes. I talked about this soup, and only realized when I got home that I’ve never posted the recipe for my absolute favorite soup!
So here it is, in its current iteration:
List of Ingredients: Brown, French, Beluga, White & Orange Lentils, Smoked Pork Necks, Ham Chunks, Diced Tomatoes (canned or fresh), Turnip, Parsnip, Celery, Carrots, Onion, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Zucchini, Chopped Spinach (fresh or frozen), Herbs & Spices.
Start by filling a soup kettle (I use a 12-quart one) halfway with cold water. Add a package of smoked pork necks (I used about 4 pounds) and some chunks of ham, a large peeled onion, 3-4 cloves of peeled garlic, 4-5 ribs of celery with leaves if you have that, 2-3 carrots, and 2-5 bay leaves. Add a parsnip and turnip if available. This should pretty much fill the soup pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer this for a minimum of 3 hours. You want the veggies to be mush, and the meat bits falling off the bone. Longer is better.
Let the stock cool enough to allow safe handling, and strain into another container (I usually use my 8-qt pot for this). Remove the bones and bits of meat and save. For a lower fat soup, chill overnight so the fat can be removed easily. Reheat the stock to a boil and add the first round of lentils, and lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
I start with about a cup each of the five kinds of lentil. While they start simmering, chop 4-5 carrots, 2 inner stalks of celery, and 2 zucchini. Adjust the amounts to your preferences and the size of your soup pot. When the lentils are tender, start adding additional lentils, so you’ll have them cooked to varying degrees of tenderness. When these are back up to a simmer, add the carrots first, as they take longest to become tender. Let them simmer about 15 minutes and add the celery and zucchini. At this point, add a can of diced tomatoes (I use DelMonte Petite Diced with no added salt), and the chopped spinach (usually a block of frozen store brand). While all these ingredients are getting tender, clean the reserved meat off the bones, break up the ham chunks to bite size and add these to the soup.
At this point the soup broth will have started thicken a bit, so be sure to stir often so it doesn’t stick or scorch. Next season the soup: I add about a teaspoon of cumin, thyme, Italian seasoning, paprika about 3 Tablespoons of dried parsley or about half a bunch chopped of fresh. Add whatever other herbs and spices suit your tastes. Occasionally I’ll add a little smoked paprika or a shake of cayenne pepper.
I like to serve the lentil soup over any small-sized pasta (I use Barilla gluten-free elbow macaroni), and add a goodly amount of grated cheese at the table. It’s also gorgeous with a good french bread for dipping.
This soup freezes very well too. It will get thicker on sitting, so sometimes adding a bit of extra broth (any type) is needed for the leftovers.