New Year Tradition – Lentil Soup

Legend has it that lentils will bring good health and prosperity in the New Year. How convenient that we just happened to have a bone-in ham for Christmas! I’ve got my batch of lentil soup on the stove right now and it will be ready later today.

I sort of followed the recipe on the bag of lentils, but mostly improvised. I didn’t quite have enough stock, so I used some dry white wine for part of the liquid. I don’t like canned tomatoes, so I used fresh heirloom cherry tomatoes. All of the measurements below are approximate. Normally I would add an onion or shallots, but I didn’t have any on hand (shocking!), so they’re omitted from this recipe.

Lentil Soup - a family tradition for good luck, health, and prosperity for the New Year!

Lentil Soup

2 pounds lentils
1 tablespoon oil (I like avocado or olive oil)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup diced lean ham (optional)
1 ham bone*
1-2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2-3 cups dry white wine
8-10 cups chicken stock (low sodium)

Prepare the lentils – spread the dry lentils out over a kitchen towel and check to make sure there are no pebbles or sand in them. Next, place the lentils in a colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat.┬áIf you’re using onion or shallots, saute them a bit first, then add the carrots and celery. Saute the carrots and celery to soften a bit. If you’re adding the additional diced ham, add it now and saute a bit with the vegetables. Add the wine and increase the heat to bring to a gentle boil.

Add the ham bone, sliced tomatoes, and lentils; give a good stir. Pour in 8 cups of stock, stir well. Cook on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low heat until the lentils are tender. You’ll want to stir the soup every 30 minutes or so and if necessary, add the additional stock. After about 2 hours, the soup will be ready to eat, but I usually cook it longer (3-4 hours) because I like the lentils more well done.

* For the ham bone … if you’ve recently cooked a bone-in ham, you’ll want to save the bone for making soup like this. If you don’t have a leftover ham bone, then you can use 3-4 ham hocks. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that ham hocks will add more fat to this recipe. They’ve got great flavor, but they are loaded with fat. If you don’t have a ham bone and don’t want to use ham hocks, Trader Joe’s makes a Smoked Chicken Apple Chardonnay Sausage that would also be good in this soup. Just dice it, saute it in place of the ham, and there you go.

You could also make this vegetarian by omitting the ham and using vegetable stock. Oooh, you could use Shiitake mushrooms to give a bit of meaty texture. Adding a bit of brown rice or barley would round out the protein in a vegetarian version, also.

Oh, the possibilities!

This soup tastes even better the next day, and it freezes well, so make a big pot today – just in time for the New Year. Enjoy!

Serving suggestion ... serve with homemade biscuits.

Here’s an idea … take your favorite biscuit recipe, add a handful of shredded Parmesan, Asiago, and/or Romano cheeses, and some chopped fresh herbs. Simple, easy additions are often the best!

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