Delia Smith, in the "SmartCook Collection: Soup" cook book from which I prepared this recipe, says the following as a preface to this delicious soup recipe:
"This is a very substantial soup, best made with the tiny French, greeny-black Puy lentils. If you can't get these, use green-brown lentils, which don't have the depth of flavor of the Puy lentils but are still excellent and can be used in the same way."
Absolute bunk, I tell you!
Now, granted, I didn't do a side-by-side comparison, but I don't think it would make one iota of difference in flavor if you used regular "green-brown" lentils, which are much cheaper. The depth of flavor of this soup comes from the pancetta, the Savoy cabbage, and the heavenly trio of carrots, celery, and onion. By the time you add the garlic, the lentils' flavor is out of the picture. I will use some of the leftover Puy lentils to do a side-by-side comparison of them with regular lentils by themselves (not in a soup) and get back to you to confirm or debunk this theory of "depth" of flavor.
Anyway, back to the soup: it is AWESOME! I could eat this soup twice a day indefinitely and never tire of it. I'm going to try making it without the pancetta next time to see how much of a difference it makes to the flavor. The broth turns out so rich, and adding the cabbage toward the end creates such a lovely texture and the illusion of substance. Yummy, warm, and comforting at the end of a long day of fruitless job searching.
Lentil Soup with Bacon and Cabbage
Serves 4 to 6
1 TBSP canola oil
4 1/8-inch thick slices of pancetta, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 cup lentils (Frency Puy lentils, or regular lentils)
1 14-oz can plum tomatoes, chopped or whole
2 garlic cloves, crushed through a press
3 14.5-oz cans of vegetable broth
3 cups (or one small head) of Savoy Cabbage, finely shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley (substitute 1 TBSP dried parsley flakes)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the pancetta in it until the fat begins to melt. Then stir in the onions, carrots, and celery. With the heat fairly high, toss the vegetables around in the pan. Cook, stirring now and then, until the vegetables are a little brown around the edges (about 6 minutes).
Next, stir in the lentils, the tomatoes (with the liquid from the can), and the pressed garlic. Stir everything together, then pour in the broth. As soon as the soup comes to a boil, cover and simmer, as gently as possible, until the lentils are tender (30-40 minutes). Then add the cabbage and cook for about 5 minutes until the cabbage wilts. If using dried parsley flakes, add them with the cabbage.
Taste and season with salt and plenty of pepper. If using fresh parsley, add it just before serving.