The best legacy of a Christmas dinner has to be the leftovers! Since my mantra is Taste not Waste, I am delighted when I can challenge myself to use up everything, so that nothing is thrown out.
The recent festivities yielded an obvious, yet exciting choice. I had a 2cm slice of the baked ham left, along with some cooked carrots from the christmas dinner. I also had a pot of gelatinous stock that came from the boiling bag that I had kept. I initially thought that it might be too salty to use, but you should never pour fat down the drain, so I tipped it into a container, and put it to one side. It turned out that there was actually very little fat in it, and the stock itself was rich, but definitely not too salty.
For the mince pie and mulled wine party, I had intended to make a couple of dips, so I had soaked some chickpeas and some cannellini beans, but as usual my ambition far exceeded the time I had given myself, and something had to give.I was considering just cooking the pulses up, and freezing them, they would have been fine to add to soups or stews from frozen.
However, beans and ham are an excellent combination. If I had more ham left, I would have made a version of a cassoulet, with the addition of some sausage and a tomato liquor to stew it all in. There are a hundred other types of dish I could have tried, but I settled on a soup, as it would make what little meat I had go the furthest.
The result that I achieved from such humble ingredients was brilliant. The soup was so flavoursome and satisfying, it made me quite proud. It really was the perfect way to end the Netherlands Christmas celebrations.
Recipe: Ham and Bean Soup
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 leek, trimmed, washed and sliced into half moons
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
Bacon fat to sweat the vegetables in
80 g ham, diced, more would be great, if you have it
1 tsp smoked paprika
200 g soaked weight chickpeas
300 g soaked weight cannellini beans
350 g ham stock. I have given a weight here, because the stock was solid when I added it to the soup. I would normally say that you could substitute one stock for another one, but in this soup, especially if you don’t have that much meat, I think that ham stock is integral to the flavour
Boiling water to cover
50 g cooked carrots. If you don’t have any leftover carrots, then use more raw ones
Small bunch chopped parsley
Firstly, if you need to, soak and cook the pulses. You could also use a single tin of cannellini beans if you must, but the dried version will bring an extra dimension to the soup.
Prepare the vegetables, and sweat them off. I never throw away fat (of course) and I had a little fat left over from frying bacon, which I used to sweat off the vegetables, in order to maximise the flavour. This is by no means necessary, you could just as well use olive or sunflower oil.
Once the fat has melted, sweat off the onion, celery and the raw carrots for three or four minutes, before adding the leek. Leek burns easily, and the last thing you want is the bitter taste of burnt leek in this soup. When the leek is translucent, add the garlic and the smoked paprika, and let them cook off for a minute or so.
Stir in the ham and the beans, until they have a light coating of the smoked paprika, then add the stock and a little boiling water. The stock will melt down quickly. Top up the soup with more boiling water, so that the liquid covers the rest of the ingredients.
Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender to your liking. Add the cooked carrots, and simmer for another minute, to warm them through. Before serving, stir through some chopped parsley.
Great the day that you make it. Even better when you reheat the last bowlful for lunch the next day.