Lentils, Chorizo and a ton of veggies make for a spicy, flavorful and robust soup, perfect for a meal or a starter.
It’s January. All the remnants of Christmas and New Years have been packed, purged and phorgotten (I know. There’s no ‘ph’ in forgotten, but I was going with a ‘p’ theme if you haven’t noticed . . . What? It works for phone . . .)
January can conjure up a plethora of images, feelings and let’s face it, gripes and grumbles. Who wouldn’t feel some sort of resentment towards this dreary month? January marks the end of the – cue Christmas music here – “Most wonderful time of the year . . .” We go from a good, two solid weeks of party hopping, face stuffing and eggnog guzzling (among other festive liquid concoctions), to mind-numbing New Year’s resolutions, shopping bans and worst of all, diet restrictions! Dum dum dummmm!
January also signals the debt of no return, where those big ticket Christmas purchases come back to haunt us. We stare at our credit card bills a little dazed and a lot of confused. We ask ourselves if our husbands will actually use that expensive drill thing-a-ma-jig that they begged you for and Mike Holmes swears no wanna-be, I mean, do-it-yourselfer should be without.
Finally, there’s of course the weather. If you’re like me, you like the changing of the seasons. You enjoy seeing the trees sprout little emerald buds on their bare branches in the spring. Witness the lush greens and vibrant hues in the height of summer. Catch the tumbling of autumn’s leaves in the fall and yes, the beauty of a blanket of snow enveloping the frosty streets at Christmas. Yes, at CHRISTMAS. After Christmas, it can go away. Good bye. Hasta la vista! Sayonara! But of course, I live in Canada and that’s all just wishful thinking. The reality is we’ll get snow and lots of it, long after the passing of the jolly season and it could very well encroach into the spring. I shutter as I think back to past snow storms in late March and early April. Brrrrrrrrr.
All complaining aside, we have been pretty lucky this winter THUS far. We’ve experienced very mild temperatures and a smidgen of snow here and there; but my friends, I am afraid that luck is about to change. The forecast today calls for a significant temperature drop, rain and yes, you guessed the ‘S’ word. No, not that one, although I’m sure we’ve all said it as we looked out of our windows after a snow storm. Days like today as ice pellets ping-pong against your window and you feel like you just can’t shake that chill from your bones, call for some drastic measures. So what better way to ward off the January cold and all the plights that come along with this month, than a warm and comforting bowl of soup!
I first encountered this recipe during an episode of Ricardo and Friends, where Ricardo made a Greek themed menu that began with red lentil soup. Wanting to incorporate more legumes into our diet I thought perfect, healthy legumes and my husband won’t even know he’s eating them, as the soup gets pureed at the end. I tweaked the recipe a bit by adding some diced, hot chorizo to render down with the onions and other aromatics. This addition added a wonderful smokiness and some heat as well. For extra flavour, I also added the rind from a hunk of parmigianno reggiano. Note to all of those who buy the good stuff: buy your parmigianno reggiano in whole wedges, grate at home when you need it (because it just tastes better that way) and save the rind that you thought was a waste of money, because you know what? It’s not! Save it and drop it into your hearty soups, stews and sauces for incredible flavour and richness!
My next moment of inspiration came from Laura Calder and one of her recipes from her show French Food at Home. In her recipe, she browns thin slices of chorizo in olive oil until they’re lovely, crispy chewy chips. Plop these little jewels on your liquid bowl of pleasure, drizzle with some fruity olive oil and if you like -which I like, very much – a sprinkle of red wine vinegar, and voila, a cure for the winter blues!
Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup
Adapted from “Lentil Vegetable Soup” by Ricardo Larrivee, Ricardo and Friends “Cream of Lentil Soup” by Laura Calder, French Food at Home.
You don’t have to puree this soup. In fact, if you prefer a chunkier, stew-like consistency serve it in its pre blender state. For a vegetarian option substitute the chorizo for about a teaspoon of smoked paprika (smoked paprika comes in hot or mild; to emulate this dish use hot since I used hot chorizo) and vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
Serves 4 as a meal, 6 as a starter
½ Hot chorizo, half diced and the other sliced (reserve this half for later)
2-3 cloves of whole garlic, crushed
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium potatoes, cubed
½ can of whole tomatoes and their liquid, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
¾ cup of red lentils
Parmigiano Reggiano rind
2 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs of parsley, 1 bay leaf, 5-7 peppercorns
Red wine vinegar (optional)
In a large stock pot, heat a few glugs of olive oil, add the crushed garlic. When fragrant, add the diced chorizo. When browned, add the onions. Sauté onions and chorizo until onions are translucent. Add celery, carrots and potatoes and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes.
Using your hands, break down the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a boil. Once the soup comes to a boil, turn the burner down to medium and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the lentils and simmer for another 10 minutes.
When vegetables are tender, remove the rind and herbs and blend using an emersion blender or regular blender (if using a regular blender, allow the soup too cool and blend the soup in batches).
Reheat the soup, adjust seasonings and add more chicken stock, if too thick. For a bit of a tang, add a couple of splashes of red wine vinegar.
In a sauté pan, heat a bit olive oil. Slice the chorizo thinly and brown in the pan. Drain the sausage on paper towels.
Ladle the soup into bowls, top with chorizo crisps and a swirl of GOOD olive oil.