Lock Down Soup with Lardons and Parmesan

This chunky vegetable soup begins by browning smoked bacon lardons, releasing its fat to fry onion and giving nuggets of flavour. If you happen to have a chunk of Parmesan, grate some over the top, adding a swirl of your best olive oil. If not, it doesn’t matter, it will still be richly flavoured. It’s a soup to play around with, substituting whatever veg you happen to have to hand. The platter the bowl of soup is sitting on in the photo, by the way, was bought from a lacquer workshop on Inle Lake, Myanmar. I think of these people who live there often in these awful times. How they and the monks too, are coping without tourism, is hard to imagine.

Serves 2-4
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 30 min

70g lardons
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 leek
100g spinach
1 potato
1 carrot
few sprigs thyme
1 dsp flour
750ml chicken or vegetable stock
squeeze of lemon
Best olive oil

Add the lardons to 1 tbsp olive oil heated up in a medium-sized pan. Cook steadily, stirring occasionally, until crisp, all the fat melted. Meanwhile, keeping separate piles, halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Slice the leek in skinny pennies, agitate in a bowl of cold water and drain. Leave baby spinach whole and shred regular spinach, stalks and all. Peel the potato, cut into small dice. Rinse and drain. Scrape and dice the carrot into small pieces. Stir the onions into the bacon and stir often as the onion begins to wilt. Add the thyme – by the time the soup is finished, all the leaves will have fallen off the stalks and they can be discarded and cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes until the onion is beginning to soften and brown. Stir in the leek with a pinch of salt, cover and cook, adjusting the heat so it wilts rather than crisps, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, stirring as disappears and add the stock. If you have real stock, heat it up first, if not, dissolve cubes in boiling water (I used 1 chicken stock cube). Increase the heat, stirring as it comes up to the boil. Add potato and carrot, reduce the heat, semi cover and cook for 10 minutes or so until the veg is tender. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon. Stir in the spinach, the soup is ready when it wilts. Serve as is, or with a swirl of your best olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan to scatter over the top.