One of the reasons we love serving ham for Easter is the leftover ham, especially the ham bone. That bone can be used to make a flavorful stock for split pea or white bean soup, helping to stretch out that ham for days. Another great pairing with ham is lentils. Make an easy ham broth with the bone, cook the lentils in it, and serve with some leftover ham slices. Inexpensive, easy, and satisfying.
Ham is so strongly flavored that you can make the broth in as little as an hour, or you can simmer it all day if you want. The cooking time for the lentils will depend on what kind you use. Always use dark lentils—green, black or brown—for this recipe. Light colored lentils are usually split and will turn to mush instantly. The darker ones will hold their shape better. We like them a little on the firm side, but if you prefer them more tender, just cook them longer.
Any leftover ham will do here, or you could use a smoked ham shank or ham hock in its place. Slices of thick-cut bacon are a good substitute for the slices of leftover ham.
- Ham bone, and stray bits of leftover ham
- 3 quarts water
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup minced yellow onion
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 pound green, black or brown lentils, about 2 cups (we used French green lentils which cook up a little on the firm side)
- 5 cups ham broth
- Slices of leftover ham
1 First make the ham stock. Put the ham bone and any stray bits of ham into a large, thick-bottomed pot and cover with the water. Add the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 30 minutes. Add the remaining ham stock ingredients and simmer for at least another 30 minutes, preferably another hour. Strain the ham stock through a fine-meshed sieve and set in a large bowl. Taste and add salt if needed.
2 Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Don't let the onions brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute, then add the lentils and stir to combine. Cook the lentils, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
3 Add 5 cups of ham stock and bring to a simmer. Cook very gently, you want the broth to barely be bubbling, until the lentils are done. That could be as little as 20 minutes, or as long as 1 hour, depending on how old your lentils are. Expect about 35 minutes. Check and taste the lentils from time to time while they cook. You don't want them to be mushy. When they are done, strain them from the stock (reserve the stock to make soup like split pea soup or ham and white bean soup, or just another batch of these lentils) in a fine meshed sieve.
Toss with a little more olive oil and serve with chopped pieces or slices of leftover ham. Serve either hot or at room temperature.