It all started with my regular, weekly trip to Dickson’s Farm Stand. They had some nice looking smoked bacon ends, so I bought them. On the way home, I realized I had some lentils I wanted to use up, and bam! Menu magic!
I cut the huge slabs of fat off the bacon ends and chopped them into 1/2 inch or so pieces and put them in a hot, thick-bottomed soup pot over medium heat until somewhat browned (not all the way browned).
Then I added some chopped onions and let them brown with the bacon and the resulting bacon grease.
Add diced carrots, celery and sweet potato and some garlic put through a press. Stir it all up (but add the next step before the garlic browns).
Put in lentils (I think I used about a cup of french lentils), some herbs (I used lemon thyme and a bit of oregano — both fresh) and a few cups of stock or water (I used a half and half combo of both, but reserve a cup or so for the end). The stock I used was left over strained kombu stock I had made a few days before that was made with onions, carrots, celery, kombu, wakame, hijiki, ginger, garlic, shitake mushrooms, sage and thyme. But I think you can use any kind of stock – chicken stock, beef stock, water, whatever.
After I stirred in the stock and all these ingredients, I placed a huge piece of kombu over the top (I took it out before serving) to mineralize and reduce the overall gassiness of the stew (which worked, BTW). It looked like this when it was cooking:
I let it cook for a few hours over low heat until most of the broth had cooked down. I then removed the kombu, any stems of thyme and oregano I could find, added in the stock I reserved for the end and shut off the heat and stirred it up.