Lentils with anchovies and capers on crispy toast

Lentils with anchovies and capers on crispy toast

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Pulses were a staple of my diet when I was growing up. They were cheap, and a little went a long way. When my mother cooked lentils (fakes), broad beans (koukia) or chickpeas (revythia), all we would get would be a plateful of those with a slice of bread and sometimes something extra – olives or some preserved fish such as kippers, the umami flavour in both livening up the duller flavour of the pulses. For me, what turned the otherwise bland lentils into something utterly delicious was a glug of red wine vinegar (we always had our own, dynamite stuff), added at the end. It seemed to bring the lentils to life!

Still, these days we are used to having many component parts to a dish and expect a visual feast on our plates. I have always enjoyed taking the simple dishes of my childhood, like fakes, and by adding a few little touches turning them into something exciting. In this recipe those same umami flavours of the preserved fish and olives are now contained in the anchovy and caper paste, spread on a piece of crispy toast.

1
To make the soup, start by gently cooking the onion, garlic and carrots in half the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the lentils and stir for 2–3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, bay leaves, sugar and cumin, then add enough vegetable stock to cover the lentils by a few centimetres. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook until the lentils are tender. You will need to add more stock as they cook, and the time taken will depend on the type of lentils, but it will vary from 45 minutes to 1½ hours
2
When cooked, leave to cool a little, then remove the bay leaves and transfer to a blender. Blitz until you have a smooth purée consistency, then return the soup to the pan. If you like your soup to have a thinner consistency, add more stock. Season with salt and pepper, and add the vinegar, a tablespoon at a time, to taste. Bring back to the heat and warm thoroughly before serving
3
To make the anchovy and caper toast, place all the ingredients except the bread and paprika in a small food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Cut the toasted bread into long thin pieces and spread sparingly with the paste and sprinkle with the paprika (if using)
4
Serve the soup with a swirl of Greek yoghurt or double cream, if you like, sprinkled with the parsley, with a drizzle of some good-quality extra virgin olive oil, and with the toast on the side
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