Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spicy Red Lentil Soup with Bacon, Cumin & Harissa

Red lentils or “masoor dal” in India, are one of my favourite types of legume, full of fiber, protein, and iron, they're a near perfect food. Wonderfully versatile, they cook faster than other varieties and can be paired with a multitude of ingredients. This savoury Moroccan-spiced recipe for Spicy Red Lentil Soup with Bacon, Cumin and Harissa is both comforting and delicious, and gets an extra kick from the harissa, a hot chili paste typically associated with Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.

Most lentil soups fall into one of two categories: highly spiced, or not spiced —sometimes called bland. This one sits very happily at the spicy end with the harissa adding a tolerable amount of heat and a wonderful complexity of flavour. A hearty, thick and satisfying soup, the bacon, cumin and yogurt add a robust note to this delicious low fat soup, perfect for a cold November evening. Even the vibrant golden hue shouts Autumn.

Spicy Red Lentil Soup with Bacon, Cumin & Harissa
Serves 4-6

5 slices (4-ounces) bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 cups red lentils
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp harissa paste
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup water
6 tbsp low fat yogurt
6 fresh sprigs of basil, for garnish

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a piece of paper towel, and set aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings from pan. Add the garlic, onion, and carrots to saucepan. Cook vegetables over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the the lentils, cumin, harissa (or tomato paste), chicken stock, wine and water; stir to combine. Simmer until the lentils are cooked and falling apart, about 25-30 minutes. The soup is fairly thick, so if you prefer it thinner just add more stock or water. 

Using an immersion or regular blender, purée the soup, leaving it somewhat chunky or smooth. Reheat if necessary, stirring in the lemon juice. To serve, divide the hot soup among four warmed soup plates and garnish with the reserved crumbled bacon, a dollop of yogurt and fresh sprig of basil.

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