Years ago, I was living in London and had just broken up with ‘a bit of a dick’ (his words). I was really missing his food until I realized I could just buy the cookbook he always used: Nigel Slater’s Appetite.
It’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made and I’ve gifted it to many a friend who wanted to learn how to cook. What’s great about Nigel is he doesn’t give you time frames for cooking, but explains the process in terms of looks, smells and textures, which is really all you need to go on when you’re hovering over a stove.
What’s more, every recipe in this book includes re-imaginings of the basic recipe. This gives you a foundation to build on and teaches you how flavors and textures work together.
I had this soup at least once a week while I was living in London. When I moved back to Holland I fucked it up once and turned it into more of a split pea soup, which I hate, and then I sort of forgot about it for a while. Until last week, when it was cold and a friend was coming round for dinner and I just wanted something warm and comforting, with a little kick to it. It was the perfect fit.
It helps that I’ve since discovered the mighty Beluga lentil, which is unfuckupable and easy on the eyes.
- 4 shallots, finely chopped
- olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- a good handful of unsmoked diced bacon
- a small bunch of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 250 gr Beluga lentils
- 1 liter of stock or water
- 2-3 big handfuls fresh spinach
- 1 lemon
- a small bunch of torn fresh min, leaves only
- freshly ground salt and pepper
To begin, gently cook your shallots, garlic and bacon in a heavy based pot. Stir every once in a while until golden and fragrant before adding the parsley.
Now, wash your lentils carefully, picking out any tiny stones as you go along. Add them to the pot and stir them into your bacon and onion mixture. Then add your water or stock, until everything is well and covered and bring to a boil. Skim off any froth that bubbles to the surface and turn down the heat to a gentle roll. Cover with a barely closed lid and cook until the lentils are tender. This should take 30 minutes or so.
When the soup is nearly done, saute your spinach in a little bit of olive oil until barely wilted and divide among bowls for however many people you are feeding.
Season the soup before ladling it onto the spinach and into the bowls. Serve with wedges of lemon and the torn fresh mint, garnishing the soup as you eat it so you get a nice fresh pop of lemon and mint in with every bite.