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!

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