Smoked Ham, Caramelised Onion & Lentil Soup

As I am sure you are all aware by now, the Olympics started last weekend.

What you may not be aware of is that I am a total Olympic tragic.  Once every four years I move into the living room for two weeks and camp in front of the TV and only leave the house when I have to.

Since I spend so much time at home during this period it would be fair to assume that I also have plenty of time to spend in the kitchen – wrong assumption.  I can’t risk missing a moment!

What I do have time for is slow cooking – the type where I chuck the ingredients into a dish and leave it – which is exactly what this Smoked ham, caramelised onion and lentil soup is all about.  

One of the other reasons I love this recipe is that it uses verjuice. Verjuice is a perfect replacement for wine in recipes for those who for some reason don’t want to use the real stuff.  In history it was used quite often when the cook could not afford or obtain wine, and in more recent times it’s been made fashionable by Maggie Beer.

Once the soup is done you can curl up under a blanket with a glass of red and and a bowl-full and take inspiration from some of the amazing stories coming from London.

I think my current favourite Olympian is a Japanese man named Hiroshi Hoketsu who is the oldest Olympian to compete at an Olympic games at the ripe old age of 71.  Thank you Hiroshi for keeping my dream of going to the Olympics alive…now I just need to learn how to ride a horse.

Michelle x

Wine match suggestion: If you fancy a red, then a lovely Shiraz Viognier blend would put you right in the mood for curling up with this soup. We’re currently loving the easy drinking Taylors Eighty Acres Shiraz Viognier 2008 (around $17 a bottle)

If you prefer a white, then we think a lovely Marsanne (a French varietal now being produced in Australia) such as the Tahbilk Marsanne which retails for around $15.00 is divine.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 450g)
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 200g small green lentils
  • 150g butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 50 ml verjuice
  • 1/4 cup sage leaves
  • 200 ml cream
  • Bread to serve
Method

Put half of the carrot, half the celery, the ham hock, leek, bay leaves, thyme & 1.5 litres of water in a large stock pan and simmer over medium heat for 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until hock is tender. Remove hock, allow to cool and then coarsely shred the meat, throw away the skin and bones. Strain the stock and refrigerate until the fat has set solid, and then remove it and discard.

When you’re ready to make the soup, heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and fry until golden (about 30 minutes). Add remaining carrot and celery and and saute until tender (about 10 minutes). Deglaze the pan with the verjuice, add lentils, stock, half the sage and 3/4 of the shredded ham and simmer for 1 – 1/2 hours or until flavours have developed and lentils are soft.

Blend until smooth, stir in cream and season to taste. Serve soup scattered with remaining warmed ham and sage leaves.