Cooking On A Budget: Red Lentil & Carrot Stew with Ham

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Red Lentil & Carrot Stew with Ham

Smoky flavor from the cumin, a nice background flavor from the garlic and just a wee bit of heat from the dried chilies made this dish a little "out of the everyday".

I have to say this was an experiment with using a left-over ham bone to make stock then using red lentils - a lentil variety which I have never used before. What I ended up with is a super left-over make-over meal that I am completely and utterly thrilled about!
Perhaps some of you are looking at the photograph and thinking baby food - well yes it kind of does look a little like toddler food, however these soft lentils along with the cast of ingredients in this stew come together beautifully and taste really delicious. Even my non-eating lentil husband said it had great flavor so that's saying a lot.
The fact is, I have by passed red lentils at my local grocery store because in my estimation I thought they were expensive. While I've purchased brown lentils for under two dollars, the red lentils were priced close to five dollars and I saw them for over six dollars elsewhere! I never understood why. Recently I found red lentils at Shop Rite and they were only $1.49. I grabbed them not really knowing what I would make. This past weekend we had baked our favorite ham so I saved the bone to make ham stock. That was the beginning of formulating this recipe. Trust me, I "stewed" about it for 2 full days before attempting it.

If you have eaters who are vegetarian you can replace the ham stock with a good vegetable broth and of course leave out the ham! The ham stock is easy to make, but since I like to skim the fat out of it, it ends up cooling over night and I finish it off the next day.

Ham Stock:
  • Ham bone (with some ham on it)
  • water to cover
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  1. Place the ham bone and all the other ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 hours.
  2. Allow the soup to cool down, then if you have time, refrigerate the stock and leave it overnight.
  3. The next day skim off the fat and strain the broth to remove the peppercorns, bay leaves and garlic cloves.
  4. Either way, be sure to strain out the peppercorns, bay leaves and garlic cloves!
This seems like a lot of work, but it's not hard and it is worth doing this so you end up with a great stock.

The Stew:
  • 6 cups ham stock (or vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 large onion (softball or larger size) - chopped small
  • 1 lb. of carrots - sliced
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic (fresh or from the jar - I used jar)
  •  left-over ham - cut into pieces
  • 2-3 dried red chilies (or use cayenne pepper to taste)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander seed
  • 1 tbsp. oil (olive or canola)
  1. Have your prep work done: chop onions, slice carrots, measure spices and cut the ham, measure the lentils in a dry measure cup.
  2. In a large stock pot heat the oil over medium heat and add in the onions. Stir and cook until the onions begin to give off their natural juices and have softened a bit.
  3. Next add in the garlic, stir and turn the heat to medium low and cook for a minute.
  4. Add in the carrots and spices, chilies and stir. At this point add in some salt and pepper.
  5. Add in the broth and lentils. Cover and let this come up to a bubble over medium high heat. Turn it down to a simmer and cook for about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  6. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add some ham pieces in and let them warm through and you are ready to serve this delicious stew.

As with most dishes, this one gets better and more deeper in flavor as it sits. Depending on your lifestyle and schedule you may want to make this stew over the weekend and serve it up during the week. The lentils are soft and beautiful and I just love the sweet carrots in this as well. Overall, this has beautifully subtle flavors.

As far as cost is concerned, this make over meal cost $3.62 to make! It serves 8-10 portions for as little as 45¢ for eight or 36¢ for ten portions! Plus, it's good for you too: Lentils are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. They are a good source of protein, iron, phosphorus and copper. Lentils are also a very good source of  fiber and manganese.

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