The playground flooded with children, their coats open to the almost spring air. Miss N one of the brave to shed her bulky coat and run into the fray, weak sunlight on her golden hair. The climb to the top of the jungle gym is clumsy in winter boots but exuberance propels them up the ropes or down the slide. The mud surrounded the playground is particularly squishy and gives way easily to our probing boot toes, eager to please our wintered bodies. Bubs picked through pebbles to pick out the perfectly shiny and coloured stones to store in his pockets. Shrieks and laughter swirled around, this is spring in Nova Scotia, that glimpse of warmth that is seized wholeheartedly because the next moment has the potential to be filled with snow.
The best intentions and well-laid plans fell by the wayside as we mixed together muffins and played in the living room. I wanted a vegetarian night of lentils and eggplant but first there was duck stock, then there wasn’t any eggplant and finally there was bacon. The children scurried out to soak up a bit of sun on the balcony, cloaked in blanket and winter coats to eat their freshly baked muffins while dinner slowly came together.
Onions slowly heated, releasing the juices to melt from a harden white to creamy yellow and finally perfectly caramelized crisps. The smell filtered through the house as we played, snuck in a pre-dinner bath and read books. It seemed right to celebrate the delightfully warm afternoon with a slowly simmered soup of enticing aromas and when it could possibly smell any better, chopped bacon was added to bring it to a heady and enticing mix. The duck stock that brought us down this distinctly non-vegetarian path is salty and complex but it is also fairly fatty so to compensate use about three times as much hot water. My lentil “soup” is more closely akin to a lentil stew as much of the liquid used is soaked up by the lentils as they cook, if you would like a soup with a thinner consistency add more liquid but keep your ratios the same to preserve flavour. Our go-to for coconut milk is often the Aroy-D brand or Rooster brand. I do find that sometimes the fat has separated from the milk in the can, this is not cause for any culinary alarm, simply shake the can prior to opening.
The Coconut Lentil Stew
one tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped into slices
3-4 slices bacon
¼ teaspoon green curry
2 cups green lentils – if I had orange lentils I would use both because of the variety in texture
250 mL duck stock
750 mL hot water
200 mL coconut milk
¼ cup finely minced fresh mint
- Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot until it slips easily across the bottom. Add the onions and cook on low heat for 30-40 minutes until they become a rich golden colour.
- Add the bacon and slowly raise the heat to medium low keeping in mind the onions are pretty well cooked at this point and it would be a terrible shame to burn them. Once the bacon is fully cooked use your spoon to push the bacon and onion mix to the side to allow the bacon fat to drain. Ball up a paper towel or coffee filter and soak it up. Do this twice.
- Add the curry and stir everything very well to mix it in – I use a very small amount of curry because its intensity grows the longer it is on the heat. Feel free to use more, I was feeding children who are vocal when they don’t like something.
- Add the lentils, duck stock and hot water and bring the mix to a boil for 25-30 minutes. I like my lentils to be a bit firm, if you are more in line with the texture of dahl, add 5 minutes.
- Once the lentils are cooked, lower the heat to medium and add the coconut milk. Five minutes prior to serving, add the mint and stir.
This stew is perfect for a Sunday afternoon when you have the time to meander into the kitchen to give a stir or add a pinch of this or that. I did make mine on a Monday afternoon but I was feeling particularly ambitious and we just happened to get home with enough time for such an endeavour. I added little in the way of salt to the soup because the bacon and dock stock already bring enough of that but as always, be sure to give a little taste and adjust accordingly.