Promise of prosperity in the New Year – from lucky lentils
ACROSS Italy it is traditional to eat lenticchie to bring luck and prosperity for the coming year.
These small brown, flat, round lentils are said to resemble Roman coins – hence the promise of prosperity.
At home we follow this tradition and serve them with slices of cotechino, a spiced pork sausage reminiscent of haggis.
Making good home cooked meals without spending a lot of money is the way forward in these challenging economic times.
I buy a smoked ham hough to make a ridiculously easy and tasty pot of lentil soup. You just need to peel a few vegetables.
With enough for eight servings, it costs less than 30p a portion, tastes comfortingly familiar and is satisfying. You can even freeze it.
How lucky is that?
GOOD OLD-FASHIONED LENTIL SOUP
One smoked ham hough (about 300g)
250g red lentils or yellow split peas
2 organic carrots
2 large floury potatoes
1 large Spanish / white onion
2 fresh bay leaves
Freshly ground pepper 3 sprigs flat leaf parsley
A large, heavy bottomed pot, to hold about 4litres. I use my pasta pot.
Rinse the ham hough and cover it with 3litres of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour or so. There will be very little scum rising from the ham but if there is any skim it off.
Rinse the lentils in a few changes of cold water. Peel and roughly chop all the vegetables.
Now taste the stock. The only risk with this soup is that it is too salty.
Depending on how the ham was smoked, it may be very salty. If it is excessively so, pouring half the stock away (which you can keep to use in another recipe) and filling the pot with the same amount of cold water will do the trick and dilute it.
Bring back to the boil. Add the chopped carrot, potato and onions.
Add the rinsed lentils and bay leaves and stir everything together.
Simmer on a low heat with the lid almost on for 1-1½ hours.
Stir occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking at the bottom.
When the soup is cooked, remove the ham hough and discard the thick fleshy skin, the fat and the bone, keeping aside the juicy ham.
If you want a smooth soup, whiz the mixture now, before returning the ham to the pot.
Warm through and check for seasoning, adding some ground black pepper.
You probably won’t need to add any salt.
Serve with some freshly chopped flat leaf parsley and a thick slice of wholemeal bread and butter.
Your granny would be proud.
Mary Contini is an author and broadcaster and director of Valvona & Crolla. Visit valvonacrolla.com. Easy Peasy: Real Cooking for Kids by Mary Contini and Pru Irvine is out now