Bacon, Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Veggie soup

When it’s cold and rainy, like it is here at the moment, soup is the perfect antidote for the weather. And the last thing you want to do when it’s raining is brave the outdoors, so I’ve come up with a delicious soup that’s hearty and full of goodness, with ingredients you should already have in your pantry. Score. You might see that this one has lentils, but don’t let their hippie connotations dissuade you. It’s time to embrace this luscious lentil, trust me! When they’re mixed with salty, delightful bacon and oodles of veggie goodness they come into their own and make this soup a real winner. I prefer to use dried lentils just because I think they taste a little nicer, but if you are short on time feel free to use tinned lentils, just add them in about 10 minutes before the soup is ready or they will overcook. If you like your soup smooth, feel free to puree it but it like it a bit chunkier like me, just leave it as is. You can make a big batch of this to see you through the week and I promise you’ll be glad you did 🙂

Bacon, Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
  • 100g cubed diced pancetta
  • 2 red onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced lengthways and chopped
  • 3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
  • 3 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • a few sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • 200 g dried red lentils
  • 1 organic vegetable stock cube, optional
  • 410 g tinned cannellini beans, drained
  • extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Place a large saucepan (with a lid) on a medium heat. Add a large splash of olive oil and the bacon and pancetta. Fry slowly until the meats have started to release they tasty fat and start to go a little crispy. Then add the dried oregano, chilli, bay leaf, celery seed, onion, carrot, leek, celery and garlic.
  2. Cook gently with the lid on for about 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft, then add the lentils and 1 litre water or vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the lentils are soft. (Check the packet instructions as different types of lentils vary in cooking time. If you’re mixing your lentils, cook for the longest amount of time to make sure they are all cooked properly).Add the tin of cannellini beans and, if the soup’s a little thick, some more water. Bring back to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes, then taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.Ladle into bowls and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the chopped parsley. Serve with some warm, crunchy bread rolls.

The Best Mac and Cheese

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Mac and Cheese is my ultimate comfort food. Like, ULTIMATE. My nana first made this for me when I was little and she would always add bacon to her dish, hence why I have to have it in mine. I have made countless variations of this dish but this version here is seriously the best. It is everything you always hoped mac and cheese would be. It has a creamy, cheesy macaroni filling thanks to not one, not two, but three types of cheese. It’s scattered with little crunchy salty hits of bacon. You also get the subtle hint of the truffle oil, and then you have the topping, with even more bacon, more cheese and the super crunchy and delicious panko crumbs. This is a hangover cure in food form. It’s also the best dish to make when you’re feeling a bit sloth-like, you want to stay in your pyjamas all day and you are definitely not expecting visitors, because while this creamy delight can seemingly serve 4 people it can also serve one person straight from this dish. Let’s be honest, when this is the sort of food you’re craving you don’t care who’s judging you.

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The Best Mac and Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 300g rindless bacon, roughly diced
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs

Cheesy Béchamel Sauce:

  • 3 tsp truffle oil
  • 2 heaped tbs plain flour
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • ½ cup gruyere cheese
  • ½ cups vintage cheddar
  • ¾ cup good quality parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method

Preheat oven grill to 200C.

Bring a medium sized pot of water to the boil. Once boiled, add the macaroni and cook about a minute less than the packet instructions suggest as it will cook further in the oven later.

Heat a medium sized fry pan with the olive oil, and then add the bacon. Cook the bacon until cooked through and well coloured. Set aside.

For the béchamel sauce, place the butter and flour in a medium sized pot over a medium-high heat and cook for about 2 minutes, so that the flour cooks out (this is called a roux). Add a little bit of the milk and using a whisk, beat it quickly and well so that there are no lumps, then add the rest of the milk still beating quickly. Keep stirring the mixture until it starts to thicken, this can take up to ten minutes. Once the mixture has boiled, coats the back of a spoon and is thick, add the gruyere, cheddar, ½ cup of the parmesan, truffle oil and season well, then take off heat.

Add the cooked macaroni and half the bacon to the béchamel mixture and mix through. Check again to see if it needs more seasoning. Pour the mixture into a 1.5 litre baking dish, then sprinkle over the remaining bacon and parmesan and then top with the panko crumbs. Place under the grill for about 5-7 minutes or until the panko crumbs are nice and golden. Serve straight away.