I like the concept of meat as seasoning, but my world is short on recipes that make it work. I also like the concept of affordable, stick-to-your-ribs meals that use pantry staples, because every trip to the grocery store reminds me of all the things I want to cook. I like this recipe because C gets all nostalgic about it, most of it gets made in the rice cooker, and it's absolutely delightful.
I say 1/8 pound of lean ground beef, but really... I pinch off about a quarter cup and freeze it when I'm making some other ground beef rich recipe. I have also used a frozen hamburger patty, ground pork, chopped chicken thigh, and a slice of bacon. Versatility! End of the pay period meals!
Take a cup and a half of French lentils, and put them in the rice cooker with four cups of water until they are tender. (Or cook them on the stove, fine.)
Meanwhile, chop one onion, one peeled carrot, maybe a tomato if there's one in the fridge, and maybe a little cilantro. Saute in vegetable oil until the onion is translucent and salt vigorously. Add 1/8 cup ground beef (frozen is OK)and increase the temperature. Cook, stirring constantly, until the beef is cooked through. (This might involve stabbing frozen ground beef with a spoon. It helps with the aggression.) Add the vegetables and meat to the lentils and stir. Thin soup to desired consistency and simmer for 5-10 minutes to get a magnificent beefy flavor throughout.
I like it with a Chilean cabbage salad (I've been known to put the wonderfully sour salad into the soup), or just steamed broccoli or sliced tomatoes. It's also good for breakfast with a poached egg.