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LENTIL AND HAM BROTH - COOK'S NOTES
First, the base of this recipe is lentils. The best, but unfortunately the most expensive and difficult to buy, lentils are Pardina lentils. produced in the North of Spain these lentils retain their shape well and have a good nutty flavour. But in truth, good old fashioned green lentils from your local supermarket will do the job almost as well.
A word about lentils may be useful here. Although some packets of lentils specify that they should be soaked overnight this is not necessary. Simply cook them for 30 to 40 minutes until they have softened but still have a little bite to them. This applies to all lentils, though dried beans definitely do need soaking for at least four hours (preferably overnight) before cooking.
Talking of beans, dried white beans (soaked as described above) can be substituted for lentils in this recipe. White beans are widely produced in Spain so the resulting meal will be equally authentic as far as northern Spanish cuisine is concerned.
Cooking from this area of Spain does not use complicated methods or ingredients, rather it concentrates on cooking local produce to perfection. This therefore brings us to the use of Serrano ham in this recipe. Any finely sliced ham can be substituted for the Serrano ham but it will not give quite the same taste. If cost is of primary concern however, then substitute what ham you can find at the correct price for your pocket.
Pimenton is used in this recipe and this is more commonly known as Paprika (the sweet variety). Spanish paprika has a slightly more smoked taste than the common paprika found in our supermarkets but both will do the job well.
Finally to the wine used in this recipe. We have used basic Spanish red wine although white wine will do just as well. If wine is not to your taste then substitute it with water or vegetable stock.
The recipe uses peeled tomatoes. The easy way to do this is to nick the tomatoes lightly with a sharp knife and then plunge them in boiling water for a minute. Then into cold water and the skin will almost fall off by itself.