Difficulty: Medium-Easy but making it a day ahead is best
There is so much to love about Lentil Soup. It is packed with good protein and fiber-filled fresh vegetables. The result is almost a miracle food! Yes--there is a little fat but you can skip the ham if you have high cholesterol. Actually-- did you know they are finding cholesterol is not as bad for you as they thought? But fat does have lots of calories--so you choose according to your own health assessment. I would use the bacon if you can't use sherry. One or the other or BOTH adds that special flavor punch! BOOM! Gottcha! FLAVOR. This was adapted quite a lot from a recipe from 'The Soup Kettle" restaurant recipe by Juanita Gomez. Yield: at LEAST 12 large bowl-fulls.
1/2 large onion--chopped
5 large carrots--sliced
3 slices REAL bacon (optional if you use sherry)
2 -4 C REAL ham--cut in 1" cubes or pieces (you can buy one of those large packaged ham slices)
2 garlic cloves--smashed and minced
2 large stalks celery--sliced
4 C lentils
4 quarts beef stock or 4 quarts water and 4 large beef bouillon cubes (6 gram size)
4 oz tomato paste
1/2-3/4 C good sherry (optional if you use bacon)
Sour cream or lemon wedges
Directions: Rinse lentils and pick through them for dark ones while still in the colander. If you don't have a colander--use your head! Wait...that came out wrong. Unless you have holes in your head do not use your head. Use a large strainer.
Boil water in a 6-qt. soup pot and stir in bouillon cubes. Add lentils and boil for 30 minutes (some people soak their lentils overnight before boiling--this is good but not necessary). Meanwhile saute first 6 ingredients in a large frying pan or a second pot. Add sauteed vegies to lentils and cook until lentils are soft. Add tomato paste and sherry. Cook for another 10 minutes. At this point I let the whole thing cool and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. But if you are hungry--you can serve it right away and put the excess in the fridge. Perhaps freeze some for another week? Absatutely!
To serve: Heat and salt and pepper to taste. Top with a blob of sour cream on top (swirl it to make it pretty) and a tiny bit of grated nutmeg. Alternatively--serve it with a slice of fresh lemon floating in the bowl. Note: Lentil soup does tend to get thicker with time--you can always add more water as you heat it up in the microwave or saucepan.