The early light of spring encourages me to flit around like a robin building its nest. I’m vacuuming up dust kitties, pulling ashes and spreading them, sweeping the decks, scrubbing floors and washing windows. Soon there will be beds to weed, compost to spread, peas to plant, rabbits to cleanup and move, and seedlings to transplant.
There’s hardly time to catch a bite to eat.
It used to be, I was happy to skip a meal or two, figuring my winter- and- chocolate-indulged frame wouldn’t miss the calories. Now I’ve learned through experience that just like a fine automobile, my body needs nutrient-dense food to sustain this sudden increase in activity.
Which is why I really love Lentil and Ham Stew.
Lentils are probably the oldest cultivated legume, and have nourished humans for over 10,000 years. Originating in southwestern Asia, the pea traveled to the rest of the Middle East, to northeast Africa, then India and Eastern Europe before arriving in the United States. Lentils play a vital role in providing protein for vegans and vegetarians, and populations with limited access to meat.
Lentil and Ham Stew is a colorful, satisfying, tasty dish. Serve it up with crusty bread, or a toasted cheese sandwich. Nutritionally dense, this stew is high in protein, and loaded with vegetables and fiber. Just the fuel your body needs to do all those chores.
The recipe is easy to prepare once all the ingredients are prepped. A food processor comes in handy to chop the onions, garlic, celery, carrots, cabbage, and ham. I chop all the veggies in a row, without washing up the machine, and lastly chop the ham.
From start to finish, the entire process took ½ hour to chop the veggies (which can be done in advance and stored in the refrigerator), and 1 hour to cook the stew. The reward is that this recipe makes 12 servings or more. These meals are handy to have in the refrigerator and freezer.
Simmering the mixture with a meaty ham bone is a traditional and frugal method to prepare Ham and Lentil Stew. The ham bone renders a delicious flavor, and the meat is tender and luxurious. This preparation allows for kitchen creativity: try other chopped root veggies, a variety of beans and fresh, chopped herbs from the garden.
Cooking for vegetarians and vegans? Omit the ham components and use vegetable stock and add additional beans. Season the soup with plenty of fresh herbs.
Spring is the time to fuel-up our bodies for the summer fun ahead. Ease into the chores at hand with a tasty bowl of Lentil and Ham Stew.
LENTIL & HAM STEW
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cups chopped onions
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 6 cups ham stock may also use chicken or veggie*
- 1 cup finely chopped celery or celeriac
- 1 cup diced carrots
- ½ cup red lentils
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- Dash of cayenne pepper more to taste if desired
- Fresh pepper to taste
- ½ cup chopped ham or more*
- 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
- 1 cup shredded green cabbage
- 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
- Maine sea salt to taste
- Assemble ingredients and tools.
- In a large, heavy soup pot, add the olive oil, chopped onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened, about five minutes.
- Add the ham stock, chopped celery and carrots, lentils, herbs and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and reduce the heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes.
- If needed, skim the fat off the top of the stew. Add the chopped ham, cabbage, tomatoes and garbanzo beans. Stir well and cook for about 15 more minutes.
- Taste the stew, and if needed, season with additional herbs, fresh pepper and sea salt.
9 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fat, 538 mg. sodium, 3.4 grams fiber Excellent source of protein, good source of B vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and trace minerals. * Substitute 1 meaty ham bone and 6 cups of water. Remove bone and break-up meat before serving the stew.