Improvised Lentil Soup with Bacon and Juniper Berries
Several things conspired to make this soup–an overabundance of bacon in the fridge, some leftover juniper berries and a yen for lentil soup on the chilly evening. Lentils and pork are a classic combination, and after consulting Niki Segnit’s The Flavor Thesaurus, I found that juniper berries (which I don’t use often) also have an affinity with pork. Deglazing the pan with a splash of sherry deepens the flavor while the juniper berries lend a bright counterpoint.
4 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup sherry
2 cups lentils (brown or green)
4 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
20 juniper berries, crushed
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Finely chopped parsley, for garnish
Cook bacon in a large saucepan over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes or until the bacon is crisp and has rendered its fat. Remove bacon from pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings behind. Drain bacon on a paper towel.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add onion, celery and carrot to pot; saute 3 minutes or until tender. Add sherry, scrapping bottom to loosen any browned bits. Cook 2 minutes or until sherry is nearly evaporated. Stir in lentils. Add stock, water, thyme and juniper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1 hour or until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer 2 cups soup to a blender or food processor; puree until smooth (or use an immersion blender to puree part of the soup in the pan). Return to pot. Serve garnished with bacon and parsley.