My husband and I have chosen to put buying high nutrient food high on our list of priorities. We seek to not be cheap in our budget for food, but buy what we can to build up our family’s health. But that doesn’t mean we have a huge budget, I could so easily spend more! You may notice that I use a lot of the same vegetables- onions, carrots, celery, potatoes and lettuce. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a lot of other veggies, it’s just that they don’t always fit in my budget! Happily, I have found that you can use the same basic ingredients and fix them a million different ways, so variety is still not lacking.
All to say, while I definitely think that good, healthy food does take some money, there are ways to do it cheaper! I am often looking for cheaper meals so that I can squeeze us through on our budget. This recipe helps me do that, but looking for a frugal meal was not how it was created.
The following recipe was something that I developed when I found a very tasty source of ham bones. I wanted to develop a recipe that really let that flavor shine. I found that a lentil soup was the perfect canvas for ham bones and cloves. A lovely combination. It was also a very frugal combination!
Lentils are often offered as frugal fare, which is true and an advantage. But because of both of their nutritional value and their lovely taste (when prepared right) I would eat them even if I had a thousand dollar budget! The only thing this recipe doesn’t do is give a lovely presentation. It’s admittedly not a pretty soup. But we like the taste a lot, so we’ll overlook that fact and enjoy it’s simple, but lovely flavor.
Because I was looking to get the fullest flavor from the ham bone, cloves and peppercorns, I have a loooong cooking time on this soup. It definitely brings out a full flavor. But, in a crunch, you can certainly shorten it. Brown lentils only take 45 minutes max to cook, red even less. To increase the nutritional value, add a bone broth (chicken or beef stock) instead of water in this soup, but it’s not necessary for taste. I have also added potatoes in, with the other veggies and loved that! I use a combination of brown and red lentils because I love how the red lentils start following apart in the soup making a creamy texture, but I wanted the brown lentils so that I would still have some texture.
You could try this is a crock pot too. I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems like it would work well!
Rustic Lentil Soup
2 cups of brown lentils, soaked overnight
2 cups of red, soaked overnight
10 cups of water
1 large ham hock, 2-3 small ones (make sure it is high quality, high flavor,)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of cloves
1 teaspoon of peppercorns
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped thinly
2 celery, peeled and chopped thinly
2 tablespoons of oil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1-Take your soaked lentils, drained and rinsed and place them in a pot with the water, ham hock, and bay leaves. Tie your cloves and peppercorns in a small piece of cheesecloth or place in an enclosed tea strainer. Add to pot. Bring to a simmer and over very low heat, cook for 3-4 hours (I have even done 5!). Make sure you stir every once in a while and make sure that nothing is sticking.
2- Towards the end of the cooking time, saute the chopped veggies in the oil until soft, add to lentils and cook for another 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are well cooked.
3-Take out the ham bone, the bay leaves and the cloves and peppercorns. Add the balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. It’s done!