Tomato & Lentil Soup

Every time I make this, everyone is in raptures.  It is good.  And there are NO shortcuts if you want it to taste as good as you remember it.  I am very flexible with the spices I use – I use whatever is in the cupboard that is in the same spanishy vein.  I serve it chunky with crusty bread for a lazy sunday night dinner or puree it finely and serve in shotglasses for a cocktail/dinner party.  It was my mum’s recipe originally which I’ve purloined and messed with.

Ingredients
1 tin whole or chunky crushed tomatoes (not pureed)
1 tin lentils
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 big carrot, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/2-1 litre good quality, salt reduced stock (packet is fine for a sunday-night dinner but home made will be better for a dinner party)
1 cup white wine
1/2 tsp good quality smoky paprika
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, freshly toasted and ground with mortar & pestle
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, freshly toasted and ground with mortar & pestle
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes (to taste)
2-3 dashes of angostura bitters
1 small tub of greek yoghurt (add a little lemon juice to taste)

Into a heavy-based saucepan, drizzle a good lug of olive oil and warm on a medium-high heat.
Add the celery, carrot and onion.  Saute for a couple of minutes till everything starts to soften.  Don’t colour.
Add the garlic.  Saute for about a minute.  Again, do not colour it.
As soon as the garlic really starts to smell fragrant, quickly throw in all the spices and stir through.
Add the wine.
Let the wine sizzle up and then cook down for a minute or so till the alcohol has cooked off.
Add the bitters and stir through.
Add the tomatoes and the stock.  The amount of stock to add depends on a couple of things.  How long you intend to cook it for and how chunky or soupy you prefer your soup. If I only have half an hour to spare then I’ll add maybe 1/2 litre whereas if I have an hour and a half then I add a litre.
At this point I usually add the lentils.  However if you want to serve it chunky rather than puree it, then I would wait until the last 30 minutes or cooking before adding them as they do lose their shape when cooked for longer than that.
Bring back to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer and place lid on top.
Allow to cook on low for as long as you can up to an hour and a half or so.  It’s not particularly fussy.
Puree for a sexier finish or serve chunky for a comfort-food feel.
Dollop each bowl/shotglass with a little yoghurt.
Sprinkle some paprika very lightly over the top.

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