Monday, 2 January 2017

Hearty Ham and Lentil Soup

A really delicious and filling soup that's easy to make and great for the family

This soup is amazingly tasty, given the simplicity of the ingredients - the secret is using a really tasty ham stock, and I carefully saved mine from cooking the Christmas ham, with the express intention of making soup. I made up the quantity of stock to what I needed using a couple of ham stock cubes as well, and you can of course make it just using stock cubes - Knorr do a good ham stock cube, and it's gluten and dairy free as well.

I was originally planning on this being a simple smooth soup (which is why I didn't add any actual ham meat to it, but of course you could easily cube some ham and add it at the end to warm through - especially if you cooked a big joint for Christmas or the New Year and want to use it up!) - however, as you can see, it's not, because when I tasted it once the lentils were cooked, it was so good I decided to leave it just as it was! See what you think... I may yet blitz a batch up, just to find out if it tastes as good smooth!

Serves eight, for 172 calories per serving (approximately 300-350g depending on how much liquid evaporates / is added).

If you're cooking gluten free, be aware that although red lentils are a gluten free ingredient in their pure form, they are often not gluten free once packaged due to cross contamination, check the packaging for 'may contain' warnings etc. If no-one is sensitive, allergic, or coeliac this shouldn't be a problem, just wash thoroughly a good couple of times. If they are, you may wish to avoid using red lentils unless they are certified gluten free, although some people report tolerating them provided they thoroughly wash them several times, and check for any suspect grains before washing. At the time of writing, Waitrose Love Life Organic Red Split Lentils are currently classified as suitable by Coeliac UK.

[Calories in square brackets, 1 tbsp is 15ml]
  • 1 onion (100g) [42]
  • 1 tbsp olive oil [123]
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped [12]
  • 350g carrots (about 3-4 medium sized) [91]
  • 2 celery sticks (180g) [18]
  • 2 leeks (180g) [48]
  • 1.7 litres ham stock (you can get ham stock cubes, e.g. Knorr, which are gluten and dairy free) [85]
  • 300g dried split red lentils (check suitability if cooking gluten free - Waitrose Love Life Organic Red Split Lentils are gluten free at the time of writing) [954]
  • Large handful fresh flat leaf parsley (optional) [5]
If you want to, you could add some diced ham at the end of cooking to warm through - especially good for using up Christmas leftovers! Reserve a little parsley to garnish if you want to make it look purdy.

1. Chop the carrot, celery and leek into small dice (I find it easiest to cut into large chunks then throw into a food processor all together and pulse until chopped, e.g. Thermomix 2 Seconds / Speed 5, repeat if necessary), about 0.5cm.

2. Finely chop the onion, and saute in a large pan with the oil until softened. Add the other vegetables and garlic and continue to cook for another five minutes, stirring.

3. Add the stock to the pan, bring to the boil, add the lentils, bring back to the boil and simmer for about fifteen minutes until the vegetables and lentils are tender (test a bigger piece of carrot if you're not sure) and the lentils are starting to collapse a little.

4. Chop the parsley, and add the majority to the soup, reserving a little for garnish if you like. Give the soup a good stir, and if it has thickened too much for your tastes, add a little hot water until you are happy with the consistency, add some freshly ground black pepper (and optional cubed ham if you want to) and then taste for seasoning (add salt to taste - if you find it too salty, add a little more water - it all depends on your ham stock).

5. At this point, you can either serve it scattered with a little parsley for garnish, or if you haven't added ham, and you want a smoother soup, then blitz the soup to your liking, using a stick blender, or liquidise in a food processor (Thermomix 2 minutes / Speed 10 for a smooth soup - do it in two batches) and serve. Enjoy!

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