Homemade chicken stock, and a bag of spinach. I foresaw a healthy dinner. I wanted it to have a kick, but I didn’t want it to be complicated, I simply didn’t have the energy. I had a tin of harissa, and I thought it would make a nice change to spice up some croutons and have them provide a lovely contrast in colour, texture and heat to a relatively mild lentil and spinach soup.

Lentils are ridiculously underrated. They are so tasty, earthy and dense, and work so well with spices, or as a supporting texture and flavour to other ingredients. There’s lots of types too, people describe lentils with offence, like they are describing one hideous smell to grace their table, the ingredient with B.O. as it were.

To those people I say pah! Praise the lentil, the puy and the red, the toor dal and the split pea. Adore them and cook them, nurture your body and soul.

Too far? Ok, back to the soup.

This was a great evening snack, comforting with some ooomph, and survived well for lunch the next day. I used about 1/3 of a baguette for the croutons (exactly 100g). This would serve 3/4, depending on how hungry you are;

Ingredients:

1 x 200g bag of baby spinach
100g split red lentils
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 mild green chilli, finely chopped
1.25l light stock, I used chicken but vegetable would be good too
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground or the equivalent in ground cumin
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp harissa
sunflower oil (or similar)
S&P
a squeeze of fresh lemon to finish
100g leftover good bread, cubed

Method:

Harissa Croutons:

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Combine the harissa and olive oil, and season with S&P.
Toss the bread in the mixture until coated well.
Toast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until crisp.

Lentil & Spinach Soup:

Saute the shallot until translucent over a moderate heat for 5 minutes or so.
Add the cumin, chilli and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the stock and the lentils and cook for 10 minutes or so until the lentils are cooked.
Add the bag of spinach, stir in to wilt, and turn off the heat.
Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice and season to taste and serve immediately while still a gorgeous green with the spicy croutons on top.

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Niamh

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