A recipe from the Good Food collection.
250 g (9 oz/1⅓ cups) green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) chicken stock
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
90 g (3¼ oz/⅓ cup) tomato paste (concentrated purée)
3 garlic cloves, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
3 large handfuls baby English spinach, washed
small pinch of sweet smoked paprika
extra virgin olive oil, to serve
1. Put the lentils in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium—high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and return to the saucepan. Add the stock and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, gently heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavybased frying pan. Add the onion, fennel, carrot, fennel seeds and cayenne pepper. Lightly crush the bay leaves in your hand and add them to the pan. Sauté over low heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent but not browned. Stir through the tomato paste. Add the onion mixture to the lentils and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are tender.
3. Gently heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over low heat. Add the garlic and 2 handfuls of the spinach and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted. Add the paprika. Add the spinach mixture to the soup and simmer for 2 minutes.
4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Transfer half the soup to a blender or small processor fitted with the metal blade. Whizz for 30 seconds, or until smooth. Return the puréed soup to the saucepan and add the remaining spinach. Season to taste. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.