When I think of ham I’m reminded of how my mother and grandmothers added a leftover ham bone and chunks of ham to a pot of beans for flavor. The saltiness of the meat infuses a simple water broth with a flavor and aroma that reminds me of my grandmothers’ kitchens, and so every time we prepare a ham, I always freeze the bone and larger clumps of meat to go into a pot of soup at some future date. This ham and lentil soup is a perfect example of simple ingredients coming together to make an easy and tasty meal. The lentils cook quickly and it doesn’t have a ton of ingredients, so it’s also easy on the budget. I like the flavor of the parsnips in it, a slightly sweet balance to the ham, though you can use yellow potatoes if you prefer. Serve it with real Southern buttermilk cornbread on the side or crumbled in the bowl with the soup where it will soak up all the goodness of the broth.
Ham and Lentil Soup
- 8-quart pot with lid
- medium bowl
- 1 pound dry brown lentils (rinsed well)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 3 stalks celery (diced)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 parsnips (peeled and diced (or 3 yellow potatoes))
- 1 ham bone
- 1 pound cooked ham (diced)
- 4 quarts water
- In the medium bowl, cover the rinsed lentils with clean water and let them soak for about 10 minutes. Drain.
- In the large pot, sauté the onions and celery in the olive oil until they soften and glisten, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add the parsnips, ham bone, diced ham, water, lentils, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook at a simmer until the parsnips and lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Remove the ham bone and serve the soup with cornbread.