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Simple Lentil Soup with Ham

Yield: 8 servings

  • 1 ham shank (ask the butcher to split it)
  • 1  large onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes (canned OK)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sprig thyme (optional)
  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. to 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar, to taste

Conventional cooking:

Place the ham shank and 10 cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for 1 ½ hours, until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.

Pressure cooker:

Place ham shank and 10 cups water in the cooker. Set to HIGH pressure and 20 minutes time.  Release pressure before opening the lid.


Finely chop the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Sauté the first three in the olive oil, slowly, until they caramelize a bit—about 20 minutes altogether. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two, then the tomatoes, breaking them up to small bits.  Strip kale from the stems, wash well, and chop fairly fine. Add to the vegetables (no need to sauté).

Note: If you prefer a vegetarian soup, you can also sauté the vegetables in the pressure cooker, just set the dial for sauté and leave the cover off . You don’t need the oil in that case. Replace the ham water with some vegetable stock, and continue with the recipe.


When the ham is tender, add the sautéed vegetables, kale and the picked-over and rinsed lentils (beware of small stones!), the bay leaf, thyme and a good grinding of pepper, and cook until the mixture is tender and thickened, about an hour more.  Remove the ham bone, and dice the meat.


Add the sautéed vegetables and kale, replace lid, set on HIGH pressure for 20 minutes more.


Once  the lentils are tender, taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and more pepper. Finish the soup with vinegar—it sounds strange, but really pulls the flavors together. Start with a teaspoon,  but you may need a bit more.