|Pea and ham soup - a real winter warmer.|
When we can now skip to the supermarket to purchase out-of-season asparagus jetted in from South America, or fresh tomatoes grown at any time of year, it’s easy to forget that historically during this season people would mostly be cooking with produce harvested the preceding year, and preserved to last through the winter. Personally speaking I think that some of the best comfort food to be made uses these preserved ingredients, and a fine example of this can be found in a steaming-hot bowl of split pea and smoked ham hock soup.
|Split peas and flavourings about to be cooked.|
|Splendid simmering smoked ham hock (hough).|
- 1 smoked ham hock of good quality – I tend to use those from Simon Howie.
- 500g packet of green split peas, soaked in water overnight.
- 2 small onions, peeled.
- A large carrot, scrubbed and chopped into large chunks.
- 3 bay leaves – fresh if you can get them.
- 4 cloves.
- A couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stalks.
- About 1.5 litres of chicken or vegetable stock.
- Salt and pepper.
Preparation and cooking
- Place the ham hock in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Place in the fridge and soak for 24 hours – changing the water a couple of times – to remove excess salt resulting from the curing process.
- Drain the ham hock and place in a large pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for an hour and a half or so, until the meat is “fall off the bone” tender. Remove and set aside until the joint is cool enough to handle.
- Stud the onions with two cloves each. Place in a large pan together with the pre-soaked split peas, carrots and bay leaves. Cover with the stock (add a little more water if necessary) and bring to the boil. With a slotted spoon, remove any foam that rises to the surface. Turn down the heat and simmer the peas until soft (about an hour or so). When soft, remove the onions, carrots and bay leaves. Add the thyme leaves and either mash the peas, or puree with a hand blender if you prefer a smoother soup.
- When the hock is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and any excess fat. Using a couple of forks separate the flesh in strands, and then add to the pea puree. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as required. If the soup is very thick add a little water, then heat through until just simmering and serve in warmed bowls, with fresh bread and butter as an accompaniment.