Jazzing up the classic Pea and Ham soup is a grand idea on these chill Winter days, says Annette Taylor.
Not much beats a bowl of hearty, steaming soup and one of my favourites was pea and ham. For years I’ve turned ham hocks and dried split peas into the well-known winter warmer; it’s cheap, easy to make and there sure is a lot of it.
Too much pea and ham?
That’s the problem. After pea and ham soup for lunch, dinner, then lunch and dinner again the next day, and the day after – it becomes a little much.
It’s time to breaking free from the shackles of tradition. I’m not the only one, over the ages, who has grown a tad tired of the stuff. Take the following 18th Century nursery rhyme:
Pease porridge hot
Pease porridge cold
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old
Oh no – nine days old, and they still had to eat it!
‘Pease’ is the Middle English singular and plural form of ‘pea’. But wait, there’s more!
English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, writing in the 19th Century, had one character suggest his wife invite friends for dinner. She replies, with a “look of ineffable scorn,” – “the last time we went there, there was pea-soup for dinner!”
This is being a little unkind to what is a hearty and economical soup. And I will make the traditional version from time to time, more than these days I jazz it up.
Throw in whatever vegetables you have to hand and sit back and enjoy the aroma as it cooks. This is a light, nicely textured soup with a certain crispness about it. No split peas need apply.
Ham and vegetable soup
2 onions, peeled
1 tbsp oil
A bundle of fresh herbs – parsley, oregano, thyme
2 – 3 bay leaves
1 ham hock
1 – 2 carrots
2 – 3 potatoes
A slice or two of pumpkin
2 – 3 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce, or similar
Salt, fresh ground black pepper
- Chop the onions and fry them gently until golden brown in oil using a large saucepan. The soup will be cooked in this, so make sure it’s a big ‘un.
- Add the hock and cover with cold water. Tie the herbs together with string and add them, with bay leaves, to the pot. Grind in some black pepper. Cover, and bring to the boil.
- Simmer for about an hour. Turn the hock over and cook for another hour. Test to see if the meat is soft, if not cook a little longer.
- Remove the hock, trim and discard the skin and underlying fat layer, and cut off as much meat as possible – return all of this to the soup.
- Peel and chop vegetables, add to the pan. Stir in the chilli sauce, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes then taste and season with salt, if needed, and pepper.
- Cook another 10 minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft. Discard herbs. Serve with fresh crusty bread with lashings of butter.
Note: much of the fat can be removed by popping the soup in a fridge for a couple of hours and scraping it off afterwards.