After several recent mediocre attempts to use red lentils to make a curried lentil soup, I ran across this recipe, which is not too different from the lentil soup that was in my repertoire as a teenage cook. This easy recipe uses the cheaper, mud-colored lentils, and I love the resulting soup. I believe I could eat it weekly during the cold months of the year.
James Beard's Creamy Lentil Soup (slightly modified)
1 pound lentils, rinsed
2 quarts ham or vegetable broth
1 bone-in ham steak, weighing ¾ to 1 pound
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 small onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1. Put the lentils in 4- or 5-quart soup pot with broth and bone cut out of ham steak. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook until the lentils are very soft, at least 1 hour.
2. Remove ham bone. Put the lentils through a food mill or process with a blender or food processor, leaving some lentils as is.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, and nutmeg.
5. Simmer for another 20 minutes. If soup is too thick, add water or broth to get desired consistency.
6. Meanwhile, finely chop ham; you likely will have 1 ½ to 2 cups of ham.
7. Add ham to pot and simmer soup for another 5 minutes.
8. Add whipping cream and simmer soup another 5 minutes.
9. Taste soup and adjust seasoning if desired.
10. Garnish each serving with parsley and croutons.