Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Split Pea-Lentil-Ham Soup with Sweet Potato

You are probably wondering how I arrived at a soup containing split peas, two different kids of lentils, ham and sweet potatoes.

I assure you, this did not involve a visit from the soup fairy.

I started with a meaty ham bone for which I had already envisioned a soupy destination. More precisely, split pea soup. This was a tradition in my family, making split pea soup from a ham bone. It usually came out very thick, or something like molten library paste. I like mine thinner, but with texture.

I was ready to make a run to the Whole Foods for split peas when I checked myself, thinking a quick peek in the pantry might save me a trip. Sure enough, in a big jar gathering dust on the top shelf, there was the remains of a bag of split peas. Not nearly enough to make a pot of soup, however. In the same container I found a handful of yellow Indian lentils. Again, an obvious insufficiency. There was also a small quantity of French Puy lentils, memory of some long-ago stew.

Neither of the three would suffice on its own. But with all three together, I had a soup and no need for a shopping trip. I also had part of a sweet potato, left over from making a rustic chicken stew (stay tuned). Voila, split pea-lentil-ham soup with sweet potato.

First, cut a medium yellow onion and three carrots (peeled) into small dice. Start these cooking in about 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over moderately low heat. Stir in about 1 teaspoon coarse salt to draw out the liquid. Add two or three cloves garlic, thinly sliced.

Cook until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes, then add the ham bone plus 1/2 cup split peas, 1/2 cup yellow lentils and 1/2 cup French Puy lentils. Add 1 cup sweet potato cut into bite-size pieces. Pour seven cups water into the pot and add a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf tied into a bundle. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to the lowest setting, cover and cook very slowly for three or four hours.

As it cooks, the ham will eventually fall off the bone. The split peas and yellow lentils will completely disintegrate, leaving the French lentils very soft but still holding a bit of texture. At this point you can remove the pot from the heat and fish out the bones and any clumps of gristle, as well as the herb bundle, using a pair of tongs or slotted spoon. Season to taste with ground black pepper and salt.

Serve the soup hot, perhaps with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or maple syrup. A crusty piece of bread will work nicely. This is a great soup for cleaning out the pantry. Don't be afraid to amend it to suit your particular cleaning needs.


Lissa said...

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I am not a fan of beans and legumes in general -- the textures make me crazy -- I hadn't realized that in a good soup peas and lentils would disintegrate -- leaving a consistency that I would probably really enjoy. I'll give this soup a shot later in the month.

Thanks for opening a whole new world of recipes!

Ramona said...

Balsamic is excellent over lentil soup. It works beautifully over mushroom soup too. I like Bourdain's recipe for that too. Oh- and it gives depth to french onion soup in case you don't cook with alcohol or don't have any on hand.

Pam said...

This sounds really good. I have never made a split pea soup, though I want to try. Have you made Christmas limas? I picked up some of them and I'm not sure how I want to fix them.

Kelly Mahoney said...

How hearty -- it's so cold here that I could really use some tasty soup.

Christa said...

Ah, yes, perfect season for split pea soup. This recipe inspires me to start off 2008 by organizing my pantry a bit! I too have leftover split peas, French lentils, and a half a bag of yellow lentils lingering about. Great way to use 'em all up.

I never had Balsamic on soup. Must try!

Ed Bruske said...

Lissa, a little experience with legumes will tell you which ones break up in cooking and which don't. Split peas, most lentils--they usually disappear. I choose the Puy lentils when I want some firmness.

Roman, thanks for the extra guidance on balsamic. I'm not a huge balsamic fan, because unless you spend a fortuner, what you get is a cheap knock-off. But in some instances its just what the doctor ordered.

Pam, I'm not familiar with Christmas limas. The last time I cooked with limas it was the ones I grew in the garden and I made a kind of faux-cassoulet--check the search feature for the post. It was very easy but extremely delicious.

Kelly, I see you are in the Chicago area, my old stomping grounds. It can get really cold there. Has Lake Michigan frozen yet?

Christa, I'm looking forward to watching your progress with the new garden beds. I'm going to see how far through January we can get just cooking out of the pantry. It could use a thorough sorting through.

Tanya said...

That looks really good. I'm a little late, but I just canned my very first jar of pomegranate jelly. Of course, then I flew to Portland and stocked up on local marionberry and huckleberry jam, and now won't touch it for months.

Ed Bruske said...

Tanya, I think any time is a good time to make jams and jellies, and I certainly envy your marionberry and huckleberry products. Kinda makes a person want to bake a loaf of bread--so as to turn it into toast and spread it with jam.

blogenfreude said...

Did the soup today - used 1/2 french lentils and 1/2 split peas, the Thanksgiving hambone, and some homemade chicken stock. Oh, and lowered the carrots and upped the onion - very good. Thanks.