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Lentil Soup with Rabbit (Sopa de lentejas con conejo)

Lentils, one of the most ancient of the Mediterranean's cultivars, are the fast-food of the pulse-tribe. They don't need soaking and take only an hour to cook. Spanish lentils are large, greeny brown and cook to a floury softness - no one would give a thank-you for the bullet-hard lentils of Puy. What you need for a soup is a lentil which will absorb the virtues of other flavourings - meat, herbs, ham - and then soften and melt till it thickens the broth. 


Serves 6


500g (1 lb) large greeny-brown lentils
1 wild rabbit, jointed (or 1k/2lb hutch-rabbit joints)
4 tablespoons pork lard or olive oil
250g (8 oz) salt-pork or unsmoked bacon, cubed
3-4 garlic cloves
500g (1lb) ripe tomatoes, scalded, skinned and chopped
2-3 green celery sticks, chopped
1-2 carrots, scraped and chopped
6 peppercorns, roughly crushed
2 dried red peppers (ñoras) or 1 tablespoon pimenton
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano
2 large waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed

To serve (optional)
2-4 hardboiled eggs, quartered
Morcilla or chorizo, diced and fried crisp
Bread cubes crisped in olive oil with a little garlic


Pick over the lentils, rinse under the tap and remove any tiny stones. Rinse the rabbit joints, put them in a bowl and sprinkle with a little vinegar. Leave for half an hour, then remove and pat dry.
    Heat the lard or oil in a roomy saucepan or casserole and fry the cubed pork or bacon, garlic and rabbit joints till everything takes a little colour. Add the lentils, 2 litres of water and all the remaining ingredients.  Bring to boil, turn down the heat, lid loosely and leave to simmer gently for 50-60 minutes, till the lentils are soft and beginning to collapse into the broth. Add the potato, bubble up again and cook for another 10 minutes, till the potatoes are perfectly tender.
    Serve in deep bowls with the optional extras - quartered hard-boiled eggs, crisp slices of morcilla, garlicky croutons - for people to add their own.  Accompany with a young red wine, nothing grand: a little acidity aids digestion. Spoon-food, a meal in a bowl - no need for anything else. Well, maybe fruit - a juicy peach, figs, grapes. 


Recipe from The Food of Spain and Portugal 

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