You know those days when you're going to be home late. Everyone will be hungry and you will have run out of energy and enthusiasm for cooking much earlier in the day. Slow cookers were invented for such days but you'll remember that I have a long-running love-hate relationship with mine. I do keep trying to find those gem-like dishes that will fill my heart with joy - but this process is long and tedious and to date, I have had very, very little success. But there is one dish that gets a thumbs up from me and the whole family. It's a looker (a rarity with slow cooker dishes I must admit) and tastes even better. It can handle being left to cook on LOW for 6-10 hours so there's plenty of scope for it to work perfectly with your schedule. It's a Red Lentil & Bacon Soup and I think you're going to love it.
I first came across this recipe in a funny little paperback book called Slow Cooking Properly Explained. It's a book with no photos ... not even any colour in fact - but with minimal tweaking, this recipe shines bright amongst other slow cooker recipes.
Sometimes I cook this overnight so that in the morning I can ladle it straight into flasks for packed lunches. Other times we'll have it for a family dinner with a loaf (or two) of crusty bread.
What is so great about this Red Lentil and Bacon Soup?
- It is exceptionally tasty - I think it's the addition of the bacon, to be honest, but the onion is a big player too.
- The lentils make it very filling so it's perfect for hungry appetites.
- The slow cooker brings out the best in this soup; the lentils break down a little bit and the vegetables are at their most delicious when they've been cooking slowly for a long time.
- It can handle being left to cook on LOW for 6-10 hours so there's plenty of scope for it to work perfectly with your schedule.
- Even without the addition of the parsley, this is a good looking slow cooker dish. And that, my friend, is a rarity.
How could you make this even easier?
And if you find you like this and you'd like to make it again ... and maybe again, here's a tip for creating an Emergency Dinner Kit.
When you've got time on your hands but don't actually want to make the whole soup, do stages 1 and 2 of the recipe and then allow the mixture to cool. Cover a baking tray with baking parchment and spread out the fried lardons, onion and carrot mixture on it. Pop the tray into the freezer and allow it to freeze completely before tipping the mixture into a labelled bag and storing back in the freezer. When you are ready to make your soup - tip the bag of frozen lardons, onion and carrot into a large saucepan and continue on from stage 3. By the time everything has come to the boil, your frozen bits will be nicely defrosted. Now, as long as you always have some tinned tomatoes, red lentils and stock powder in the pantry, you'll be able to kick this off without even leaving the house and in way under 15 minutes. And PS - don't stress about the parsley if you don't have any to hand ... its primary role is to look pretty.
So there you have it - an Emergency Dinner Kit - another weapon in your secret armoury on your quest for gorgeous food - no fuss.