Back to Basics Six - Pea and Ham Soup
This is a long, gelatinous, delicious meal of a soup that will bring comfort, nourishment and that hominy hominy pleasure that only hitting all five flavour senses gives. In my house I call this Ham and Vegetable Soup as Mr T always maintains that he does not like Pea and Ham, even after almost thirty years of eating it and asking for a second bowl. He also maintains that he does not like French Toast, that is not true either, but anyway.
Begin with a nice ham hock, my mum always used bacon bones, I don’t, I like to cook this soup long and slow and bacon bones will begin to break down. Some people use ham or bacon, again, I don’t, using a ham hock gives us all the collageny goodness that is in the bones and the cartlidge, nice big meltingly tender chunks of meat and that salty, smokey, sweetness of cured pork.
I cook this on my combustion stove, I just keep the fire ticking over all day and it warms the house and makes my dinner, but you can do this on a regular cooktop or in a stock pot if you choose to, it may make a difference to how long it cooks, use your eyes with this one, the hock and the dried peas will tell you when they are done.
1 ham hock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, quartered and sliced
1 onion, diced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 cup split yellow peas
1 1/2 cup split green peas
4 large potatoes diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced or 1 cup pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen green peas
Shredded baby spinach
Place the olive oil, carrot, onion and celery in a very large pot over a medium heat, cook until the onion is translucent and it is all nice and fragrant. Add the ham hock and the split dried peas, cover the lot with water, you will need to top this up as you go along, everything must always be completely submerged by the water. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer this for at least four hours or until the ham hock simply falls apart when lifted and the peas have dissolved into mush.
Remove the hock, every bit, if it is cooked enough you will have to fish around for all the bits that fall back in as you are lifting it out. Set it aside to cool. It should look like this.
Turn the heat up to get your soup to a good rolling simmer, add your potatoes and sweet potato or pumpkin, keep that all cooking at a medium heat, add a bit more water if it looks too crowded in there, until the potato is tender and beginning to break down. By now the ham hock should be cool enough to handle, slip off the brown skin and separate the meat from the bones and fat. Cut or pull the meat into large chunks and return to the soup. Discard the bones, fat and skin.
Once the potatoes and pumpkin are at the falling apart stage and everything has merged together to form a gorgeous chunky soup, remove from the heat, stir in the frozen peas, add your shredded spinach to the bottom of your bowl - remember, we are preserving the water soluble vitamins and minerals in our leafy greens by adding the soup to them, not them to the soup, ladle over your soup, season to taste. Enjoy.
This makes quite a lot of soup, but it keeps well in the fridge, which means dinners are sorted for the next few days, or if you think you won’t manage to eat it all in three days, pop some in the freezer.
Karen and I have done this soup under the Convalita Gourmet banner for a number of open days and it always brings people back to our table to ask me, what is my secret to this most luscious of old favourite soups. I always answer, time and fresh (frozen) peas, this always shocks people, which always shocks me, it seems to me the most obvious thing to put into a PEA and ham soup - sorry Mr T, ham and vegetable soup. By adding them right at the end, after we have taken the soup off the heat, we preserve their sweetness, their form and their colour and most importantly, any water soluble vitamins and minerals that have survived the freezing process.