Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Donna Hay's Red Lentil and White Bean Soup with Crispy Bacon

Speaking of food magazines, this easy, flavorful soup comes from one of my favorites, Donna Hay.  Donna Hay is the name of a magazine but also of a real live person who lives Down Under and is often referred to as the “Martha Stewart of Australia”.  I imagine Martha likes Donna – Donna’s recipes are simple, elegant and beautifully photographed, much like Martha’s.  In addition to her eponymous magazine, Donna Hay has published over a dozen bestselling cookbooks

Lentils may be small but they are a nutritionally powerful little bean.  The heart, in particular, loves this legume; its very high levels of fiber help fight cardiovascular disease as well as lower cholesterol and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.  Lentils are an important and inexpensive source of protein, making them particularly valuable to the vegetarians of the world.  High iron and magnesium levels provide energy and aid the flow of oxygen from the lungs to blood cells. 

I feel I’m constantly being bombarded with dietary do’s and don’ts so I wouldn’t blame you if your eyes glazed over reading the last paragraph.  That’s fine, just know this:  lentils are one of the healthiest foods for you.  Eat more and you’ll be better off for it.

Red Lentil and White Bean Soup with Crispy Bacon
Adapted from Donna Hay

Compared to other beans, lentils cook quickly.  Red lentils cook the fastest of them all, needing only 15 - 20 minutes of simmering on the stove before they are ready to eat. Another bonus is lentils, unlike other dried beans, do not require an overnight presoak before cooking.  A quick cold water rinse and scan for the occasional stone and the beans are ready to go.

The original recipe calls for pancetta but I had bacon on hand and used that instead.  Leave the bacon or pancetta out and make the soup vegetarian; you’ll lose some depth of flavor but it is still delicious.

My dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure last year.   One of the changes he has had to make to his diet is a drastic reduction in salt intake (in other words, NONE).  Now I look at every food box, can, and package to find out the sodium content.  It’s shocking how much salt is added to just about all packaged foods, including those that say “no salt added” (do not be fooled!).  Eden Organic is an exception, with just 40 mg of sodium in each 15 ounce can of cannellini beans.  Even if a doctor hasn’t told you to watch your salt, it’s a smart idea to take note.

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 slices bacon or pancetta, roughly chopped
6 sprigs thyme
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2-15 ounce cans white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium - high heat.  Add half the bacon and thyme and cook for 4 minutes or until golden and crisp.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Add the remaining bacon and thyme, onion and garlic to the pan and cook for 4 minutes or until softened.  Add the lentils, tomatoes, stock, and water and bring to the boil.

Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.  Add the white beans and cook for 3 minutes.  Top with the crispy bacon.

No comments: