The Writer has been sick of late which got me thinking of the ultimate comfort food. This is 'the' soup. The one I make at the first sign of crisp autumn weather and the one that carries me through those last grey winter days when I'm desperate for a little sunshine. It's hearty, chunky and flavourful.
It's not the sort of elegant course that lends itself to glossy photos in Gourmet Traveler but given I most often eat it in my PJs while watching TV, I think that's best for all concerned.
Apart from a little chopping there is minimal labour involved. The perfect bowl food to cradle at the end of the day.
A note on the title. There's nothing distinctly French about this but I'm rather fond of the rustic farmhouse image it conjures up. It was also the title of one of the dozens of recipes that inspired this pot of goodness.
180g/ 6oz piece of pancetta cubed
180g/6 oz green-brown lentils (canned are fine)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
225g/ 8 oz tin crushed tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1.75 litres/3pints stock ( If it's 8pm midweek a nice short-cut is stock made up from chicken stock cubes and bacon stock cubes)
225g/ 8 oz cabbage, finely shredded
salt and freshly milled black pepper
In a large pot fry the pancetta without any additional fat until browned. Watch it carefully to prevent burning. Add in chopped carrots, onion and celery and allow to cook in the fat released by the pancetta. Stir in the lentils plus the contents of the tin of tomatoes followed by the crushed garlic then the stock.
As soon as the soup comes to the boil, put a lid on and simmer, as gently as possible, for about 1 hour. About 15 minutes before the end add the cabbage. This is a good time to warm up some bread in the oven. Season to taste. Serve with warm crusty bread.
This freezes brilliantly. Next time you want to be spared an hour aimlessly searching the supermarket for dinner inspiration, pick up some crusty bread and heat up a bowlful instead.