French lentil and farro soup with spinach

French lentil farro soup

French lentil farro soup

    “He was standing by the edge of a small pool – no more than ten feet from side to side – in a wood. The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky. All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm. It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing. The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool. There were dozens of others – a pool every few yards as far as his eyes could reach. You could almost feel the trees drinking up the water with their roots. This wood was very much alive. When he tried to describe it afterward Digory always said, “It was a rich place: as rich as plumcake.”

    The strangest thing was that almost before he had looked about him, Digory had half forgotten how he had come there. …If anyone has asked his “Where did you come from?” he would probably have said, “Ive always been here.” That was what it felt like – as if one had always been in that place and never been bored although nothing had ever happened. As he said afterward, “It’s not the sort of place things happen. The trees go on growing, that’s all.”

This, of course, is a passage from The Magician’s Nephew, by CS Lewis. He’s describing “the wood between the worlds,” a strange, lazy, dreamy green-lit place. It’s a place I think about a lot. We used to love The Chronicles of Narnia when we were little, my brother and I. Who wouldn’t like to imagine a magical world you could escape to at any time, where you could (safely) go on adventures and talk to animals? Your dog could finally tell you what she’d been thinking about all this time! We had a world of our own, in which we were talking animals, and the world had a history, a geography, a morality all its own. I’d tell you all about it, but it’s top secret! This world was almost like a religion for us, and it shaped our outlook on life to a remarkable extent. I’ve been looking forward to sharing Narnia with the boys, but I’ve been reading through parts of the books lately, and I feel a little disappointed! I’d forgotten about that whole, “Buck up, old chap, and stop your blubbering or we’ll despise you for the rest of the book” mentality. One of my favorite books was always The Horse and His Boy. I love the idea of stories that take place between the major conflicts. My idea of a good book would be a story of life when Peter was high king in which absolutely nothing happened. No drama, no evildoers to overthrow, just a tale of what day-to-day was like in this happy golden time. Well, I went back and read a bit of Horse and His Boy. It’s the story of light-haired, light-skinned noble well-intentioned people from the north fighting against swarthy-skinned, dark-haired, backwards and mean-spirited people from the South. Ugh! It’s still a good story, but I feel a little queasy when I imagine Malcolm reading it. Maybe I’m crazy. Anyway…I’ve always loved the idea of the wood between the worlds. So many times in my life I’ve felt like I’m there, I’m in this tranquil in-between place, trying to decide which pool to jump in next. Because each pool is a world, and you don’t know what you’ll find there, when you jump in. Here in the green wood, you’re safe, all you have to do is sit still, and your memories are vague and dreamlike, and you can almost feel yourself growing. You don’t have to act, or interact with anyone. But you can’t stay forever. As Polly says, “This place is too quiet. It’s so – so dreamy. You’re almost asleep. If we once give in to it we shall just lie down and drowse for ever and ever.” So you have to exert yourself and pick a pool (or a school, or a job, or a place to live …) You have to wake up and exert yourself and engage with your life, and let the wood between the worlds become your dream. Since the boys were born, I feel like I’m having an extended stay in the wood between the worlds. I can feel the boys growing, at the incessant imperceptible rate that people grow, but how it all happened, how they got to be the boys they are now, on their way to being the boys they will someday be, is a jumble of memories and expectations and anxieties, all swathed in a glowing green light – a hopeful light, a healthy growing light. Sometimes I rouse myself from my pleasant drowse and I think about jumping into one of the pools – I apply for a job, I contact people about shooting a film – but I never seem to do much more than get my ankles wet in the wrong pool before I’m lying on the soft green grass again, wondering how I got there, listening to the boys grow, watching them get ready to choose which pool to jump into. Some day, in the glowing green future. There’s no hurry, it’s very nice here.

Well, I’ve mentioned that we’re all feeling a bit under the weather, here at The Ordinary. So I wanted to make a rich, comforting soup that would have a bit of spiciness to cut through the lurgy. So I made this soup, with french lentils and farro, for sustenance, spinach for all-around wonderfulness, and cayenne, ginger, and lemon, for salubriousness. It was very good! We floated green toast in it, made from the colcannon bread, which was lovely. This is a very hearty, meal-in-itself soup, but it wasn’t heavy at all – it had a nice warm smoky broth, and the ginger and lemon helped to brighten it.

Here’s This is Your World by Sam and Dave. What a good song!

2 T olive oil
1 shallot – minced
2 cloves garlic – minced
1 inch length of ginger grated or minced
2 bay leaves
2 t fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 t dried)
1 large potato scrubbed and cut into 1/3 inch dice
1/2 cup french lentils, picked over
1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup white wine
pinch cayenne – to taste
pinch smoked paprika
1 can diced tomatoes (I like fire roasted) (or 2 medium-sized tomatoes roughly chopped)
2 cups (packed) spinach, washed and processed in food processor till very finely chopped, but not quite puréed.
1 t salt
2 T butter
juice of 1 lemons
lots of freshly ground black pepper

In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, the ginger, the bay leaves, and the rosemary. Stir and cook for a minute or two, until things just start to brown.

Add the potatoes and the garlic. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the lentils and the farro, and continue to stir and cook for another minute or two. Add the white wine, and use it to help you scrape everything from the bottom of the pan. Cook for another minute or two until the white wine is reduced and syrupy. Add about four cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about twenty minutes. Taste the farro and lentils. They should be soft but still have a bit of bite to them – al dente.

Add salt, cayenne, smoked paprika and tomatoes. Stir in the spinach. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about twenty minutes to half an hour. You might need to add water as the lentils and farro cook.

Add the butter and lemon juice. Season with lots of black pepper, taste for salt, and serve.

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9 thoughts on “French lentil and farro soup with spinach

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