Ham and Lentil soup

A sweet craving satisfied is all well and good, but I find a savoury craving hardest to bear. Moods and foods go hand in hand, and I instinctively know what I am pining for when in a certain frame of mind. I just have to make it, then and there.

Anything hot with heaps of chilli does well to banish a bad mood with or without sniffling-nose-plus-foggy-brain syndrome. Mama’s dhals do well for that late supper hit, when longing envelops me. The process of tempering and the rising aroma makes me feel closer at that moment, to those I love across the seas. When The Scotsman needs a bit of moral support, I provide it in spades along with a fat bowlful of (his favourite food) velvety macaroni cheese with ham. Celebrations call for chocolate, the sun and post swimming happiness calls for fruit ice creams and lollies, biting winds drive us deep into the stained pot of a long simmering, treacly dark, body and soul warming casserole.

For calm and some vestige of balance though, I turn to soups. More precisely lentil soups, the broth kinds. There is something primitively comforting in it’s grainy, soft texture that offers some balm to whatever has been battering my mind, however insignificant. Or not as the case may be. Also, if we have been overdoing it on the meat or rich food front, a lentil soup simmering on the hob makes me feel smugly virtuous.

The Scotsman, with as much hunter-gatherer pride as a modern, city man can muster, placed a three and a half kilo of gammon on my kitchen counter. He wanted it in Coca Cola and delicious though it is, I wanted stock. Proper, lightly aromatic, golden stock. I won, of course. Not that this was a battle. So I plonked the ham into a pot, filled it with water and heaved it over to the stove. If your gammon is quite salty, then you can let the water come to the boil, chuck it out and refill with clean water. The first boil allows for some of the salt to be removed. Along with the refill, I chucked in (unpeeled) onions, carrots, garlic, black peppercorns and as I have a thing for fennel and pork, a teaspoon of fennel seeds went in as well. Cook your gammon, gently, with a soft bubble, rather than erupting spring. I consult my meat thermometer and take the gammon out when it has reached 60deg C (this is lower than the thermometer marking for pork, however, recent guidelines have changed and the recommended internal cooked temperature for pork is now 60 deg C/ 145 F. Thank goodness!) . However, if I want to delay things a bit but keep the gammon warm, I take it to 55 deg C , turn off the heat, put a lid on and let the gammon sit in its hot bath until tea time. I get by for about an hour this way.

The stock – oh I could drink it. All the flavouring ingredients, particularly the fresh and cool toned hit of fennel, gave generously to the liquid. This I used to make my lentil soup. I use a fair bit of garlic, toss in carrots, sometimes rice, maybe barley, but there are always lentils of some sort. I prefer the small red lentils, as they are faster cooking and not as greedy with liquids. Some soft sauteeing and gentle simmering produces a light yet filling meal of a broth, with generous chunks of ham.

On days like these when the relentless heat drives folk into their air conditioned homes, I serve this brothy, nourishing soup for dinner, with some rolls for mopping up. I tend to make extra and in the quiet of the afternoon, when the kids have succumbed to the heat and are sleeping, I have a bowlful of this soup, by the window, curled up in my favourite chair. This isn’t about being fancy, it’s the need for familiarity. Sustenance for the hours ahead and a calming moment in a busy day. Such a lot given, for all that it’s soup.

Ham & Lentil Soup

1 litre homemade ham stock (or good chicken stock, homemade or bought)
125gm red lentils, rinsed
1 onion, finely chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped or minced
1 small bulb of fennel, finely chopped (optional. If you don’t have fennel, use half a teaspoon of fennel seeds)
2 medium carrots, cubed small
2 handfuls of frozen peas
250 gms of cubed cooked ham (or more if you like) Fresh parsley to serve, chopped

In a large pan, heat up some oil and throw in the fennel seeds if using. If not, ignore that, and put in the onions and garlic to sweat until soft. Add the fennel bulb and carrots and cook until they have turned bright in colour. Pour in the stock and let it come to the boil. Add the lentils and reduce the heat. Put on the lid and let it simmer for half an hour. By this time, the lentils should be soft, fuzzy edged, with no hard centres and the stock would have thickened. If not, give it five more minutes. Add the ham and frozen peas and let it cook for another five minutes. If it is too thick, add some more hot stock. Season well (all pulses need a fair bit of salt and pepper). Sprinkle over the parsley and serve warm.


18 thoughts on “Ham and Lentil soup

  1. Sarvani @ baker in disguise

    oh this looks .. fresh!! the veggies are looking all bright and sunny!! it reminds me of your earlier post some time back.. the one with the chicken soup.. with the rains making their annual appearance.. am gonna try it one of these days when i am all cooped up inside….and the rain lashing outside!!

  2. Rushi!

    Carrie you have a way of making the simplest of recipes turn into a feast. I like to think of myself as a bit of a soupaholic and that gives me the perfect excuse to worry hubby into buying some gammon to turn into a soup πŸ™‚

  3. Amrita aka Beetlebuggy

    I’m a big sucker for Dals too and can eat plain bowls of them at any given point. Like you said, it’s the comfort and familiarity of it being a staple since your childhood. This dish to me combines everything I love in a Dal with ham and soup vegetables. Sounds like a perfect meal to me. Btw, I love how you write out/design your recipe cards…at this rate, you can put them all together in a beautiful ready-made cookbook.

    1. The Patterned Plate

      I used to drink spoonfuls of my mother’s garlicky dhals, in the kitchen when she wasn’t watching. If she did find me out, I’d get a light rap at the back of my head! She was pleased though, hahaha!

  4. Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand

    My first thought on seeing this was nourishing. Just the tonic to pick you up and make the world seem better again! Lovely recipe with intense flavours. Delicious!

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