It’s currently summer here in Melbourne, averaging 30+ degrees C this week, which means it’s an ideal time for salads, charcoal flamed meat and glasses of the old jumping grape, or the fizzy hops. So, in a crazy contradiction to the ambience I decided to make one of my favourites, and indeed one of my five year old daughter’s favourites; pea and ham soup.
This is a recipe that I have worked on over the last couple of years and am really happy with it. The flavour hinges on a number of things, but the most important of these is the ham hock; the meat joint from the lower leg of the pig. I have the fortune of having a local purveyor of incredibly great smoked meat products. It’s a shop owned by a lovely old couple of Eastern European descent. They have had the shop for 51 years, and as I watch them quivering whilst manually slicing double smoked bacon with a well-used and worn meat knife I marvel that both of them have a full complement of digits on their hands. The produce is second to none though, and it is here that I buy the double smoked hock that I use in the soup.
All that’s required to accompany this little beauty is some rather good crusty bread. If you have the inclination then you could have a go at a home-made sourdough, which can be found here.
Smoked Pea and Ham SoupPrint
- ■ 500g green split peas | Pick through to remove anomalies i.e. black-eyed, off-colour peas. Wash as per the update below - no longer need to soak as in my original method.
- ■ 2 rashers long middle Bacon | Roughly diced. If you are feeling indulgent then streaky bacon can be used - full of fat and taste.
- ■ 2 large carrots | Roughly chopped.
- ■ 2 large leeks | Use the white part only, and roughly sliced.
- ■ 2 sticks celery | Roughly sliced.
- ■ 1 tbsp. olive oil |
- ■ 1 large fresh bay leaf | Plucked from the garden, otherwise greengrocers. Try to use a fresh bay leaf.
- ■ 2 fresh sprigs thyme | Dried can be used.
- ■ 2 medium-sized potatoes | I use Desiree or Sebago cut in to 1 inch diced pieces.
- ■ 2.5 litres cold water |
- ■ about a 1kg smoked ham hock | The hock must be smoke-cured to add the depth of flavour required.
- seasoning sea salt |
The green split peas need to be soaked. You can leave them overnight and then rinse them well. If you don’t have time then there is a quick way of soaking them. Put them in a pan of water (about 2 litres of water) and bring them to the boil. When boiling turn down the heat and simmer for three minutes, covered. After three minutes turn off the heat and leaving the pan covered leave for an hour. Drain and rinse the peas well – they are now officially ‘soaked’
UPDATE: Having experimented with this recipe I can now definitively confirm that there is no need to soak the peas. Rinse them in a bowl of cold water to remove any errant skins and to clean them and then drain. They can then be added as per the method below.
Put a stock pot (at least 5 litre) over a low to medium heat and add the olive oil and bacon. Fry until the bacon has browned and then add the carrots, leeks, celery, bay leaf and thyme sprigs to the pan – there should be enough fat/ oil already in the pan. Turn down the heat and gently sauté for about 7 or 8 minutes to soften the vegetables. The leaves should have detached from the thyme sprigs, so if you can pick out the stalks.
Now add the split peas, and stir. Add the potatoes, water and the ham hock and bring to the boil. There is no need to skim this once boiled as we do not require a clear soup. Cover the pan, turn down the heat to low and gently simmer for 75 minutes. Once finished gently remove the ham hock and set aside to cool. Also carefully remove the bay leaf and discard. Now the fun bit; with a hand held blender blend the soup until it’s nice and smooth. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Once the hock has cooled so that it can be handled break off what meat there is, cut it up into small pieces and then add to the soup. Serve with that crusty bread.
I have to say that this soup is absolutely cracking the day after.