In the background, I can hear ‘bulup, bulup, bulup’. And if it’s possible to describe a sound with a word usually reserved for food, I will. It’s a delicious sound – the sound that happens when the soup you’re cooking starts to thicken and transform into a delicious pot of goodness.
I learnt long ago that as a busy mum, it’s usually my diet that is the first to suffer.
When I take my littlies to the park, I pack them sticks of cheese, sticks of carrot, fruit, sandwiches and if I’m feeling particularly Martha Stewart, I’ll make a batch of mini muffins for my babes and all their little park friends.
What I forget however is something for me to snack on so generally arrive home ravenous.
Of course, I need to get the littlest ones down for their day nap and set the older ones to something ‘quiet and calm’.
After that I’ll quickly check all my emails, throw on a load of washing, do a little facebook time, pay 3 bills and then I’ll go back into the kitchen to think about what to take out of the freezer for dinner.
It’s then that I realise how hungry I actually am and, spotting the leftover crusts of peanut butter sandwiches, I grab these up, smear a little more peanut butter onto their little edges and proceed to fill the gap in my tummy with … crap. Whatever is lying around or is easy to throw down basically.
I realised that counting on making myself a ‘light little salad with tuna’ each day was a total joke.
Sure I could stock up on a thousand tins of Sirena (when they were on special) but having the spring fresh salad veggies in the fridge each day to make said salad was never going to happen. So, I had two choices … attempt to be the slim, svelte salad mum who bounced out of the gym, popped into the fruit & veg store on the way to car and then home to drink lemon water and eat the salad and FAIL dismally or embrace my penchant for something a little bit rewarding and hearty in the middle of the day and simple plan ahead to have something ready to roll when hunger hits.
So, I’m babbling. That was a really long-winded way to share my all time favourite soup recipe that kind of evolves each time I make it, basically depending on what I have in the fridge or pantry.
The soup that saves my heart, my soul and to some extent my waistline is a Smokey Bacon & Red Lentil Soup. It may not be as slimming and healthy as the CSIRO soup but you can feel it doing you good all over. It’s so easy, keeps for a week in the fridge, freezes perfectly and will fill you up completely even without a roll, toast or cracker to accompany. I make a massive batch every few weeks in Winter and hand it out to all who come near me in the middle of the day.
Share it with a girlfriend while the kids charge round the house, put some in a thermos for your partner to take off on their day, take some with you to your office or make up a big batch of herb & garlic bread and serve it as a meal. Yes, you can make it as chunky as you like so the kids don’t whinge about ‘having soup’.
Today my version contained:
1 Chorizo sausage (mild or spicy to taste)
4 strips of bacon (half the fat removed)
1 medium brown onion (any onion will do)
1 red capsicum & 1 green capsicum
4 sticks of celery
You could also add eggplant if you had one floating around
Basil for flavour & decoration (if you’re an aspiring Donna Hay)
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked red lentils
salt & pepper to taste
The How to:
Super simple really. Dice everything as small as you possibly can (or if you’re really in a rush like I was tonight, throw it all in the food processor and ‘pulse pulse’ baby).
Find your biggest soup/stock pot and set it on the stove top. Start by lightly frying off the onions, chorizo and bacon (you shouldn’t need to add any oil as the fat from the bacon and chorizo will be enough), then add all the diced veggies. Once they are nicely blanched and sweated down, add the two tins of diced tomatoes and then fill both tins with water four times each and add this water to the soup. It will look very watery but never fear. Then add the red lentils. After this it’s all about letting it bubble away – for the lentils and veggies to cook to a beautifully soft texture, the soup base to reduce and thicken and for all the flavours to come together. Keep an eye on it as it bubbles and stir occasionally to ensure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
You’ll be able to judge quantities for yourself – if it’s too watery, just let it continue to bubble away with the lid off until it thickens up. Or, if it’s as thick as porridge and the lentils are still crunchy, add more water and continue to cook.
The end result will be a flavoursome, hearty soup that has enough body to fully satisfy and enough of the good stuff for you to feel pretty good about what you had for lunch.
What are your tricks for keeping on the straight and narrow when it comes to lunch alone when no-one’s watching?