Yesterday’s wind chill hit -51 degrees. Everyone’s talking about Chiberia but all I can hear is “soup soup soup soup.” I’m sure most people associate freezing temps with comforting food, but for me, cold weather has an especially strong connotation with my mom’s soup.
Growing up, snow days were always the best because my mom taught in the same school district my sisters and I attended, so we had the day off at home together. Mom would bundle us up and send us out to build snow forts and entertain each other. Breaks inside were full of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream mountains (it’s no surprise I can no longer handle dairy). For dinner, mom would make split pea and ham soup served with buttered bakery toast, and it instantly warmed us up.
This soup is another recipe I had put on the back burner (haha) because I was afraid my attempt wouldn’t taste as good as I remembered. I’m coming to find that the more memories I associate with a recipe, the more daunting it feels to try and recreate it. My parents had us over for dinner last Friday, and when my mom sent me home with the leftover ham and some helpful tips, I knew it was time to give it a try.
Ham & lentil soup is the perfect recipe to make the day after having ham for dinner, because you really don’t need that much leftover meat. I would argue the bone is the most important part, because bone marrow naturally thickens the soup and lends its amazing flavor. If you are buying ham just for this recipe, you don’t have to buy more than a couple pounds of ham- just make sure there’s a good bone in there.
Split peas can be used in place of the lentils if you prefer, I just couldn’t find them at Trader Joe’s! If you do use lentils, be sure to rinse and sort them before adding to the soup. As with most beans, you might find some tiny rocks disguised as lentils.
Ham & Lentil Soup
Prep time: 20 mins Slow cooker time: 8 hours
Makes 6-8 servings
1 large ham bone plus 2 – 3 C meat
2 C yellow onion, chopped
4 C unsalted or low sodium vegetable stock
3 C water
2 1/4 C green lentils or split peas, rinsed and sorted
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 t dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Good olive oil
Salt & pepper
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
In a 6qt or larger slow cooker, add ham, onion, vegetable stock, water, lentils, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, generous drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Set on low for 6 hours, stirring every hour or so if you’re home.
After 6 hours are up, add carrots and potatoes and let cook for another 2 hours, until vegetables are tender and lentils have absorbed most of liquid.
Remove bay leaves, ham, and ham bone from slow cooker, discarding bones. Cut ham into bite-sized pieces and return to slow cooker. If you used fresh thyme, remove the stems. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Keep leftovers in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, or freeze for up to 6 months.