Bacon and Lentil Soup with Ham and Cheese Toasts

On the last day of the school holiday I took the day off work to spend with my little man. When I asked if he had anything special he’d like to do that day like go to a movie, play mini golf, skate park, etc. his reply melted my heart: “It doesn’t matter Mum, as long as I can be with you”. Awwww! So we had one of those precious days and just did “stuff” together. He’s really into Dinosaurs and Volcanoes at the moment and I found a show at the Auckland Museum specifically for kids which was a story about a family of dinosaurs and two dinosaur trackers. The excitement in the auditorium was almost palpable and you can imagine the noise from an audience mainly made up of children 12 and younger. He was being a “big boy” and being very cool by opting to sit in the back row (thankfully it’s not a very big auditorium) and kept telling me that it couldn’t be real because dinosaurs are extinct, but it didn’t take long before he was totally engaged and even keen to participate in the show (anyone who has kids knows that these types of shows are very interactive to keep the children focused). He got to go on stage and pat the dinosaur up close.

Bacon, Lentil and Tomato Soup with Toasted Ham and Cheese

I was really impressed with the semi-animatronic dinosaurs and although it very definitely had a human inside it (which my son gleefully explained to me when he realised the legs coming out the bottom weren’t only dinosaur legs, but included a couple of human ones too). The mouths opened and closed, they could bend down to eat something off the ground or reach up really high to the tops of the on-stage forest. Their eyes even roamed the room and blinked! A little creepy I must add, but all in all, very effective. The dinosaur trackers were a couple of bumbling goons so we all learned about the dinosaurs together, and little man was very proud that he could answer a question about when dinosaurs became extinct – apparently it’s around 65 million years ago – who knew?

There’s something to be said about being around the innocence of children, their vibrant energy, blatant honesty, their little voices eagerly directing the goons on their mission. I found it very humbling to be among these gorgeous creatures…the children, not the dinosaurs…and sitting there, in the darkness of the auditorium with my little man clutching me in trepidation, excitement or just plain cuddles, I thoroughly enjoyed the 40 minute show.

Afterwards, we wondered around the magnificent building and enjoyed a picnic under the war memorial out front captivated by the view across the city, Hauraki Gulf and an actual volcano, Rangitoto, out in the bay. Thankfully it is dormant and hasn’t shown any sign of activity since it rose out of the sea around 600 years ago, but one of the displays in the Volcano Hall left me feeling rather shaken, literally.

In a makeshift wooden building laid out like any lounge room at home, the sofas facing the TV and looking out what is meant to be a gorgeous floor to ceiling view down the hill and across the water to Rangitoto. The “show” simulates an actual news broadcast on the TV and larger than life display of what could happen if Rangitoto suddenly came to life and erupted. It is very well done and the floor of the room jolts and moves as if an earthquake has occurred and you see the steam rising from the sea water. And then the inevitable eruption sending water and rock and all manor of things airborne. This causes a tsunami which, as it finally dawns on the audience, travels towards our “home” and we see it travelling faster and faster across the water. Finally it hits with a force (the floor violently jolts again) and the screen goes black. When the image returns, it is of utter desolation down the hill and out to sea and Rangitoto has a sister volcano now sitting next to her, the landscape forever changed once more. A great lesson on how New Zealand was formed, but it left me a little concerned living so close to such a dangerous monolith, albeit that we are further away than the house in the simulation.

Arriving home after such a long yet enjoyably busy day, a quick dinner was called for and a quick glance round the pantry allowed this delicious soup to be ready in minutes. I sometimes replace the bacon with Chorizo, it just depends on what I have on hand at the time.

ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 pack of bacon, chopped (or 2 chorizo sausages, sliced)
1 x 400g can tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup brown lentils (or 1 tin lentils)
pinch of sugar
1 litre chicken stock
dried Rosemary
salt and ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oil and fry the onion, celery, garlic and carrot until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the bacon (or chorizo sausage) and fry until cooked.
  3. Pour over the tomatoes, paste and sugar and add the dried rosemary.
  4. Add the stock and uncooked lentils if using. Simmer for half an hour. If using tinned lentils, add them about 10 minutes before serving.
  5. Season to taste and serve.

To make the Ham and Cheese toast:
4 slices ham
any bread, but chunky ciabatta or baguette rolls sliced on the diagonal always look nice
cheese of your choice (Gruyere or Vintage Cheddar adds a bit of zing)

Do we really need instructions for this? Probably not, but here goes:

  1. Preheat the oven grill to 180°C fan forced, or 200°C normal function.
  2. Slice the bread and spread it on an oven-proof tray (covered with baking paper if you want to reduce the washing up).
  3. Grill for a couple of minutes on one side until slightly coloured, then remove from the oven.
  4. Turn each slice of bread and layer the ham and cheese onto the “fresh” side.
  5. Return to the oven for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling.

Enjoy!

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