Provençal lentil, cabbage and bacon soup
The colder autumn weather is starting to set in here in New Zealand. It was a magical summer, which makes it harder than usual to cope with the colder weather — but this soup is certainly helping ease the transition.
It’s my all-time favorite comfort soup. Which is quite surprising actually, because the ingredients are very plain and simple — mainly lentils, cabbage, carrots, potato, and a little bit of bacon. But something akin to a gastronomical metamorphosis takes place when these simple ingredients are all simmered together with the right seasonings.
The combination of ingredients also make this robustly flavored soup very filling — so it’s an ideal meal in a bowl. In fact, accompanied with some crusty bread or whole grain toast topped with a little melted sharp cheese, it makes a very substantial and satisfying meal.
Apart from how tasty and filling this soup is, it has a few other things going for it. If you’re looking for an economical meal (and who isn’t these days!), then it’s hard to think of a more cost-effective dish. But what I especially love about this soup is that the nourishment factor is so high.
Lentils are a great source of protein, slow-releasing carbohydrates, and dietary fiber (they’re an especially rich source of soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol levels). Cabbage contains potent phytochemicals that help ward off many types of cancer. Carrots contain plenty of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from destructive free radicals. Garlic and onions help lower blood pressure and have been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease risk. And potatoes are a great source of vitamin C and potassium (which, among other things, helps regulate heart function).
And as is common with many traditional Mediterranean dishes, meat (in this case bacon) is used sparingly, as a flavor and texture enhancer rather than being the center of the meal. Indeed, this soup contains only one bacon rasher between four people, making it very low in saturated fat. But because the soup has extra virgin olive oil in it (which contains mostly healthy monounsaturated fat), you still get that wonderful mouth feel that fat brings to a meal.
If you don’t eat bacon, you can either use soy bacon or omit the bacon completely. The recipe still works without the bacon, but to be honest the bacon really does add an unmistakable depth of flavor.
1 bacon rasher — finely chopped
1 celery stick — finely diced
1 onion — finely diced
1 carrot — finely diced
2 garlic cloves — finely chopped
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 potato — peeled and diced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup red lentils
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper