Prom­ise of pros­per­ity in the New Year – from lucky lentils

The Herald Magazine - - etc MARY CONTINI EASY COOKING AT HOME -

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?


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 Easy Peasy: Real Cook­ing for Kids by Mary Con­tini and Pru Irvine is out now

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