Ham with Lentils and Baked Onions – Red or White?

Another simple and robust dish that takes some work but does not require refined skills, nor fancier tools than a sharp knife, big pans, a baking tray and a sieve. If you can’t manage that why are you reading this blog? This one is by the wonderful Simon Hopkinson who knows how to use British ingredients in traditional ways to create transcendental tastes.

The ham is boiled with vegetables, some of the liquor is used for the lentils which are then enhanced with concentrated tomato puree and cream. The onions are baked in Marsala and the fennel is cooked quickly to retain some crunch. It’s a wonderful combination of autumnal tastes. And we will have ham salad for two days to come.

Sadly lentils have got a bad reputation at the hands of worthy health food addicts who seem to think things are better for you if you don’t enjoy them. These are luxury lentils not designed for shovelling down in quantity.

A friend insists on a light red wine like Beaujolais with this. I am equally insistent that it needs a spicy white, specifically Alsace Pinot Gris. A fuller Sylvaner would also work. This was Pinot Gris 2009 13% made by SCVB at Bennwihr in Alsace. It cost about £4.70 in France. You ought to be able to find something equally good at around the £6.49 price point in the UK, but actually we tend to import only the rather better Alsace wines, so you’re unlikely to find any Pinot Gris at all for less than £7.99. This one claims to be ‘aromatic, rich, full-bodied but retaining a dry character’ and so it is. This is a long way from the dry wines we are used to, very full and fruity, but exactly what is needed with this food. I don’t understand how anyone could drink this wine with this ham and still prefer a red wine. For once I can’t think of a realistic alternative.

And don’t begrudge the £7.99; this isn’t any old ham and lentils, it is a meal for people who understand food.

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