Heavenly Ham and Lentil Soup for Easter Monday

We spent the Easter weekend with my Mumma in Hampshire eating. She is the queen of Easter - beautiful tablecloths, eggs and decorations everywhere, tastefully done Easter tree, her sheer capacity for consuming chocolate. She cooked up a storm all weekend including her amazing fish pie and smoked ham, jacket potatoes, leeks, peas and parsley sauce. Last time she did a ham my lovely, helpful husband tipped the stock away in a frenzy of washing up but we managed to save it this time and soup was looming for the rest of the weekend.

We'd eaten so much I was not sure how I felt about soup which in my mind is always a bit heavy but we were all completely astounded by what appeared. Rather than something creamy and heavy this is clear and life-giving, the perfect antidote to a weekend of overeating. I love ham but can never really be bothered to cook it myself but now I know this is one of the outcomes I'm definitely going to add it to my repertoire.

Heavenly Ham and Lentil Soup
Serves 6-8

1 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
2 litres smoked ham stock
1 onion, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely sliced
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 medium potato (ideally new potato), finely diced
3 handfuls green lentils
1 finely chopped tomato
1 bunch curly parsley
black pepper
Parmesan (optional)

All you need for this (apart from a sharp knife and a chopping board) is a big saucepan. It's important that the vegetables are quite finely diced and the potato is a firm variety as you want it to hold it's shape.

1. In a large pan heat the oil and butter over a medium heat and sweat the vegetables, excluding the parsley, for five or so minutes.

2. Add the ham stock and the lentils, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 1/2 and hour until the lentils are cooked.

3. Chop in a large bunch of curly parsley, including the stalks, just before serving.

4. Sometimes its nice to sprinkle a little bit of Parmesan over this - I prefer it without but some like it with so you may want some on the table for people to add if they want.

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