healthy slow-cooker recipe of the week: i finally make delicious lentil soup, thanks to you

Last summer, I asked for help in turning my drab lentil soup into something more yummy and enticing. Thanks to wmtc readers, I've done it. Yesterday for the first time, I made lentil soup that I will actually look forward to eating (as opposed to tolerating because I made it and don't want to throw it out).

Here's what I did.

I switched from chicken stock to beef stock.

I took out the celery and added mushrooms.

I added something acidic, in the form of the tiniest drop of Tabasco sauce. This made an appreciable difference, and now I understand why soup recipes often call for a splash of vinegar or the juice of a lemon. When readers suggested Tabasco, I was skeptical, because I don't want the soup to be spicy, but you were right: a tiny bit added flavour without heat.

I also balanced out the other seasonings, which I had overloaded in an unsuccessful attempt to give the soup more flavour.

At this point the soup was much improved, much tastier. If I wanted to keep the soup very low fat, I could have stopped there and it would have been all right.

But my friend and cooking guru M@ gave me several beef bones and smoked ham hocks. I threw a ham hock in the slow cooker and the effect was just about miraculous. I realize now that the bones impart more than flavour; the added fat gives the soup a wonderful texture and thickness.

There's not much extra fat, either. After the soup is refrigerated overnight, excess fat would have risen to the top for easy skimming and removal. This morning, there was no visible layer of fat on the soup.

I now understand why, when I tried to make my mother's mushroom and barley soup without marrow bones, the soup was thin and boring. When I made the same simple recipe with bones, it was the thick, rich, flavourful soup I remembered from my childhood.

This has been a fun learning experience for me. Thanks, everyone! And here's my non-vegetarian lentil soup.

1 litre low-sodium beef broth
1 cup lentils
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, cubed
8-10 cremini mushrooms, quartered
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 bay leaves
thyme, allspice, salt, and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
1 pork or beef bone

Throw everything in the slow-cooker for 8 hours on low. Remove bay leaves, bones, and any gelatinous pork skin. Enjoy!


M@ said...

Awesome! I'm really happy that the pork hock made that much difference.

One of the great things is that it's not just the fat but also the collagen that is adding to the flavour and texture. Those hocks have all that lovely tendon and so on and that really adds a lot of body to the soup.

Pork hocks are pretty cheap right now. I'm thinking of maybe buying a load of them and freezing them, and then smoking them all in the spring when I can use the smoker again. Another possibility is pork trotters, which don't have as much meat but have loads of other tasty stuff (bones and connective tissue), and they're smaller so they take up less room in the freezer and the crock pot. Hmm.

Anyhow, I think I'm going to make a batch of lentil soup this week. I just bought a bag of lentils, too...

allan said...

Diego really perked up when that hock made an appearance!

M@ said...

:) It may not work in all dog homes, but we let Bean chew those beef bones for a while when they're out of the crock pot and well cooled. She's a pretty happy dog when that happens.

laura k said...

Diego really perked up when that hock made an appearance!

Understatement! When I started cooking, he looked downright scary. ;)

Lucky Bean! Our bones went in the organics bin, I'm afraid. Tala's GI issues won't permit it, and we can't give one to the Big Boy without Princess Tala getting some.

Good thing he doesn't know what he's missing.

laura k said...

Oh and I also meant to say, yes, I'd forgotten that it's not only fat that's thickening and adding flavour, it's all that wonderful soft-tissue stuff. Wonderful or disgusting, depending on your POV.

johngoldfine said...

Raw, bone-in beef short ribs can occupy our dogs for hours stretching out into days.

Also, bones bring out dog personalities and personal styles. Around here:

* Chloe takes her bone as far away from every other dog as possible, our bed being a favorite spot if we've forgotten to close the door

* Maddie goes off to a bed with her bone and does her best with the few teeth she has left, but...(see Boca)

* Timmie welcomes the bones with an insane victory dance and trots merrily off with his, but... (see Boca)

* Patrick is totally icked and grossed out. 'I don't eat anything that is not officially out of a can or out of a bag, thank you very much.' (See Boca.)

* Boca, all ten pounds of her, follows the dictum ascribed to Stalin: 'What's mine is mine, what's yours is negotiable.' She takes her bone, she takes Patrick's bone, she intimidates Timmie after a minute of growling and takes Timmie's bone, she dittos with Maddie and takes Maddie's bone--meanwhile rushing with rage at anyone within 15 yards of her middle-of-the-floor stash. Only Chloe is spared her attentions. (Keep in mind that Maddie is 70 lbs, Patrick 60....)

So, we have to rescue those bones for the other dogs and cool Boca's afterburners a little.

Stephanie said...


I love the gelatine that bones add to soups and stews. I remember sending you a recipe for chicken adobo the last time I made it this is exactly what thrilled me. The sauce was thick and rich and pretty much solidified when it cooled. So much nutrition in the velvety broth made with good bones!

Happy for your discovery!