80 ml (⅓ cup)olive oil1 eachcarrot, celery stalk and onion, finely diced3garlic cloves, thinly sliced1 tspsweet paprika½ tspIndian-style curry powder, such as korma1long red chilli, halved lengthways2 litres (8 cups)chicken stock500 gm small green lentils (see note)300 gm piecesmoked bacon loin1bouquet garni (see note)To serve:crusty bread (optional)Croûtons (optional)½ day-old baguette, thinly sliced50 mlolive oil
Preheat oven to 160C. Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add vegetables and garlic and stir until tender but not coloured (8-10 minutes). Add paprika, curry powder and chilli, season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and stir until fragrant (1 minute). Add stock, lentils, bacon and bouquet garni and bring to the simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are tender (20-30 minutes). Discard bouquet garni, remove bacon and set aside. Season lentils to taste and keep warm. Makes 2.5 litres.
Meanwhile, for croûtons, divide bread between 2 oven trays, brush with oil, season to taste and bake until golden (8-10 minutes).
Slice bacon into lardons. Heat remaining oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add lardons and stir until golden (3-5 minutes). Serve soup topped with lardons and croûtons, with crusty bread.
Note Bistro Gitan uses green lentils from Victoria's Mount Zero company. To make bouquet garni, tie 3 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, 6 thyme sprigs and 3 fresh bay leaves together with kitchen string.
This recipe is from the July 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.