Cooking On A Budget: Brown Lentil Recipes – Lentil Soup with Ham

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brown Lentil Recipes – Lentil Soup with Ham


One of my all time favorite soups my mother made when I was growing up was her lentil soup with ham.  I still make it to this day and I have to say it is one of the most flavorful and fragrant soups. The main ingredients are of course lentils and ham but it is the additional ingredients that in combination make this soup so tasty.  I use the brown lentils, also known as Spanish Pardina which contain vitamins A and B; they are low fat, high protein and high in fiber. Lentils are also rich in potassium, iron and magnesium.  All in all brown lentils are incredibly high in nutrition.

Whenever we have a traditional New England boiled dinner of ham (I use the shank portion), potatoes, carrots and cabbage I can look forward to making a nice pot of lentil and ham soup.  Although the New England boiled dinner should be a one pot meal, I now cook the cabbage on the side.  The reason for this is that I use the broth that the ham was cooked in for the starting base of the lentil soup.  First, I strain the broth that the ham was cooked in and put the broth back in an 8 quart stock pot.  After removing any outer fat of the left over ham and cutting off any large chunks of ham, the ham bone with some ham still intact, will go back in the broth.

While the broth is simmering, I divide the ham up, removing any large pieces of internal fat.  I’ll slice some of the ham for sandwiches and the rest I pull apart, or cut up for the soup. I use 2 large sweet onions, medium dice; add those to the simmering stock along with 3 tablespoons of finely chopped garlic. In addition, I use about a teaspoon of granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon of coarse ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt to start (Don’t add this yet if you started with a salty ham).

Charlemagne once said: “An herb is the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks.”  The next ingredient I add in is the key to the flavor and aroma of my lentil soup: dried oregano. I use dried versus fresh due to the cooking time involved and for me the dried is the best for this particular recipe.  Into the pot goes 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of dried oregano. I add in approximately ½ to ¾ of a bag of brown lentils and finally about a pound of sliced and peeled carrots.

This happily simmers away for about 2 hours.  After cooling down I will refrigerate the soup and the next day skim off any fat that has accrued at the top.  Pull out the ham bone and remove any fatty pieces that may have fallen off of the bone and into the soup.  Yes, you have to dive into the soup with clean hands, but come on, play with your food – its fun!  After that deed is done you can reheat the soup.  When the soup has been heated I taste to see if it needs additional garlic, oregano or salt and pepper or perhaps granulated garlic. Making this an even hardier meal I prepare elbow macaroni on the side; the elbows go into the bowl and the soup is ladled over them.  Also a crusty loaf of Rye bread from your local bakery or grocery store totally rounds out this delicious supper.

All in all this is a hearty, certainly healthy and absolutely delicious meal. The added benefit is that it costs very little to make.  You are using left over ham with inexpensive ingredients such as the lentils, carrots and onions. So if you are cooking on a budget it certainly is a cost saving meal.
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