Lucky Lentils bring Prosperity for the New Year

Across Italy it is traditional to eat lenticchie to bring luck and prosperity for the coming year. These lentils small brown, flat, round lentils are said to resemble Roman coins and 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 hock to make a ridiculously easy and tasty pot of lentil soup. You just need to peel a few vegetables.

With enough for 8 servings it costs less than 30p a portion, tastes comfortingly familiar and satisfying. You can even freeze it.

How lucky is that?


One Smoked Ham Hock (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

You need a large, heavy bottomed pot, to hold about 4 litres. I use my pasta pot.

Rinse the ham hock and cover it with 3 litres 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 (keep to use in another recipe) and filling the pot with the same amount of cold water will do the trick to 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.

Job’s done!

Simmer on a low heat with the lid almost on for 1-1/2 hours.

Stir occasionally to prevent the lentils sticking at the bottom.

When the soup is cooked remove the ham hock and discard the thick fleshy skin, the fat and the bone, keeping aside the juicy ham.

If you want a smooth soup whizz the mixture now, before returning the ham to the pot.

Warm though 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 grannie would be proud!