Spring officially started nearly three weeks ago, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that it felt like it finally arrived here in the Pacific Northwest. Sunshine and temperatures in the upper 60’s provided a festive backdrop for Easter merriments, and I was blessed to be able to spend the day with dear friends and family celebrating Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross.
It wasn’t planned, but we ended up hosting dinner at our house yesterday. Living such a long distance from most of our extended family, we have a tradition of gathering with friends here in the Seattle area every Thanksgiving and Easter, but the family that was set to host this year became ill at the last minute and had to cancel. My house was a bit of a wreck and we didn’t have a ham or much else to offer, but we decided an unconventional, slightly unprepared Easter dinner was better than none at all.
Thankfully, I was able to pick up a pre-cooked ham on my way home from church and my sister-in-law, Jenny, came over early to help us get things in order. Though it wasn’t what we expected, it turned out to be a delightful day of celebration. We haven’t done much hosting in recent months due to our little man arriving on the scene, so it was wonderfully refreshing and energizing to have friends in our home once again.
As we cleaned up the leftovers, I realized one unanticipated benefit of providing the ham: the bone! I knew I couldn’t let those luscious flavors go to waste, and I immediately decided that a lentil soup would be in the works for tonight’s dinner. Pantry staples make up the majority of this soup, though I did add a good amount of fresh basil that was left over from a meal I made last week.
Any type of bean would do well in this type of soup, but lentils are a convenient choice given their quick cooking time. They also add fiber, iron, folate, and an earthy flavor that is balanced by the richness of the pork. The addition of fresh basil near the end of cooking gives the soup added brightness.
- 1 pound dry lentils, any variety (about 2 1/4 cups)
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 1 cup finely diced celery
- 1 cup finely diced carrot
- 1 ham bone or ham hock
- 2 cups chopped ham
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves plus more for garnish
- Greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving
- Place the lentils, onion, celery, carrot, ham bone, and chopped ham in a large pot. Cover the ingredients with the chicken stock and water, and stir in the bay leaf, oregano, salt, and pepper. Heat the mixture over medium high heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
- Remove the bay leaf from the soup and discard. If there is meat on the ham bone or if you are using a ham hock, remove the meat from the bone, chop it into bite-size pieces, and return to the simmering soup (discard the bone). Stir in the fresh basil, add additional salt and pepper to taste, and simmer 2 minutes more.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with Greek yogurt and additional basil if desired.
Tips and Tidbits
- For this soup, I combined ingredients that I had readily available in my home, but there are countless ways to vary the flavor. A can of diced tomatoes would add some acidity, or you could use other herbs in lieu of the oregano and basil. Parsley and thyme would both work well in this dish.
- I typically like to begin a soup by sautéing the aromatic vegetables in olive oil before adding the other ingredients. I omitted this step here because I wasn’t feeling it, but you could do so if you like. Just heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the pot over medium high heat, add in the celery, onions, and carrots (and maybe 1 or 2 cloves of minced fresh garlic) and sauté for about 5 minutes. Then add in the ham bone, stock, and remaining ingredients.
- If you don’t have fresh basil on hand, substitute 1 1/2 tablespoons of dried basil, but add it to the soup at the same time as the dried oregano to allow the flavor to infuse the soup.