Jacob and The Princess were born three days apart. Years ago, when toddler meals were the subject of many a conversation at mother’s group, I related to Janice (Jacob’s mother) that I had fed The Princess red lentils and she seemed to quite enjoy them. Janice is an extremely good cook. Much better than I am, so I saw no need to give her detailed instructions on how to cook said lentils. Next mother’s group she reported that she had tried to feed Jacob the lentils and he wouldn’t eat them. Apparently she’d just boiled the lentils in water, no seasoning. Perhaps instructions might have been helpful after all. I’m not surprised Jacob was unimpressed though as plain lentils can be rather unpleasant. Well seasoned lentils, such as in this lentil and brown rice soup, are a whole different matter.
When it comes to cooking something new, I tend to treat unfamiliar food with some suspicion. Mostly due to my concern that if I royally stuff up the cooking, a fact that may not become apparent until dinner is served, or worse still eaten, we will be left scrambling for any take away that can be delivered some time before midnight. Lentils were once on my list of suspicious food. At some point I obviously I overcame this as they are now a staple in my kitchen.
Lentils come in a variety of colours and sizes. Split lentils are used in dahls and curries, and are great to throw into stews, soups or slow cooker meals to add additional nourishment or to thicken the dish. They contribute little flavour so can add valuable fibre and nutrients, and if cooked long enough they break down completely making it impossible for suspicious minds (I’m thinking children here) to pick out.
There are now also a variety of whole lentils on the market. Personally I do not like the large brown flat lentils which are commonly seen for sale. I find them lacking in flavour, and they lose their shape when cooked spilling their starchy insides everywhere. My preference is for the small, petite green lentils, sold as Puy lentils or Australian Green lentils depending on where they were grown. I have also occasionally found small whole red lentils and black lentils for sale. I love these little lentils. They are quick to cook, hold their shape well and have a delicious, almost nutty flavour to them. I use them in salads, side dishes, one pot meals and soups.
Lentils cook quite quickly, and do not require prior soaking. However, I have managed to cook lentils in around 12 minutes by soaking them overnight. If you are short on time, and slightly organised, soaking them will not hurt. Even a quick soak of a few hours will help. I usually cook my lentils as part of a dish, as in this soup, so they take on the flavour of the other ingredients. The exception is when I cook lentils for a salad. In this case I will always tuck in a bay leaf whilst the lentils cook, which contributes wonderful flavour, and dress the lentils as soon as they are drained to allow them to absorb some of the dressing.
If lentils have long been on your suspicious foods list, try this soup. All the other ingredients add great flavour to the lentils and the rice makes you wonder whether you are actually eating lentils anyway. I am not going to pretend this is a pretty soup, because it’s not. But it is tasty. I might just have to send the recipe to Janice.
Lentil & Brown Rice Soup
This recipe freezes well, but may thicken a bit on cooling. Just add additional water when you are reheating to thin it out.
Served with crusty bread, this makes a hearty winter meal, ideal for a cold night.
- 2 Tablespoons ghee or olive oil
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 4 rashers bacon chopped
- 1 cloves large garlic 2 small
- 1 carrot diced
- 2 sticks celery diced
- 2/3 cup brown rice rinsed
- 2/3 cup green lentils rinsed
- 6 cups chicken stock 1.5L
- 2 leaves bay
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 4 leaves large silver beet kale or other greens, finely shredded
- Salt & pepper
- Place a large pot ( at least 2L capacity) on a medium heat.
- Melt the ghee in the pot and add the onion.
- Saute the onion for about 5 minutes, or until it has softened.
- Add the bacon and continue to cook for 3 minutes until the bacon has started to colour.
- Add the carrot, celery and garlic to the pot. Saute for a further 5 minutes until the vegetables have started to soften.
- Add the chicken stock, rice, lentils and herbs and bring the pot to the boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer for approximately 40 minutes, until the rice and the lentils are cooked.
- Add the shredded greens to the soup and simmer for a further 3 minutes, until the greens have wilted and softened.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with crusty bread.
The lentils are cooked when they can be easily squished between your fingers. There should be no hard or gritty pieces in the cooked lentil. If there is just cook them a little longer and squish again.
I use whatever greens I have in the garden to make this soup. Silver beet, spinach, kale, mustard greens and even finely shredded Asian greens will work.