Oct 4, 2012

Ham and Pea Soup

Yesterday, in celebration of this beautiful season of Spring starting, i made garishly bright iced sugar biscuits, but today all i can think about is soup.  It is cloudy and raining, raining, raining.  It feels like the middle of July, not the beginning of October!  So, to warm the cockles of my heart... well, my stomach really... the prior is the responsibility of my husband, and my cat... i made pea and ham soup, or ham and pea soup.  Being of the rather carnivorous variety of homo sapiens, we like our meat, so when i make a soup like this, it is HAM and pea soup!

It is a super easy recipe, but not really one for making on a whim as one needs to soak the peas for six hours before getting the soup cooking.

Easy Peasy Ham and Pea Soup

500 g green split peas
canola or olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, diced
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 kg ham bones or a smoked ham hock, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
lemon juice (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place the split peas in a large bowl, cover with cold water and allow to soak for 6 hours. Drain well.
2.  Heat a splash of oil in a large pot.  Add the onion, carrot and celery.  Cook over a low heat for a few minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
3.  Add the peas, ham bones, bay leaf and thyme, as well as 2.5 litres of cold water.  Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours, or until the peas are tender.  Remove any scum that rises to the surface (obviously, i didn't do this - far too much effort). If you can find them, remove the bay leaf and thyme and discard.
4.  Remove the ham bones from the soup and allow to cool slightly before removing all the meat from the bones.  Or, if you are impatient like i am, start hacking at the bones immediately and run your fingers under cold water every now and then to restore feeling!  This is also the point at which you can test the quality of your ham... you will have to have a few pieces to make doubly sure that is tasty enough... and if your husband, boyfriend, flatmate or whoever else it is that you might be making all this effort for is around - bring them a pea mush covered little smidgen of ham as a tantalising fore-taste of what is to come!
5.  At this point, you could either return the meat to the soup, reheat and serve, or.. you could blitz the soup into a smooth pulp and then add the meat before reheating and serving.  I've made it both ways.  The latter yields quite a thick soup, which my husband loved.  You could thin it down with a bit of milk or stock. The unblitzed version looks more like a veggie soup (you can still see the carrots and celery - a no-no for kids and husbands) and is a bit thinner.  For what it is worth - i enjoyed both versions.
6.  Before serving, season with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe yields approximately 8 servings.  This might seem a bit ambitious if you are only cooking for two, but there is reason to this rhyme.  Firstly, ham hocks only come in one size - fairly large.  Secondly, this soup freezes beautifully and there is nothing more satisfying than grabbing a tupperware for two out of the deep freeze when that next soup-craving strikes and simply having to pop it in the  microwave to satisfy that yearning. 

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