Is there anything more comforting and satisfying than a bowl of pea and ham soup?
It’s usually split down the middle by those who love it or loath it. I love it and used to look forward to every winter when mum would make a big batch. I have fond memories of gnawing on the left-over ham hock – this is still a tradition very much in practice today.
The recipe I have made here is much lighter than the traditional split pea version, takes a fraction of the time of the former and is healthier. It has loads of veggies. So, even you pea and ham soup loathers will like this one.
The good thing about ham hocks is that they add oodles of flavour and are full of cartilage so the stock they make is great for your tummy.
The bad thing about ham hocks is that not any hock will do.
Now I wouldn’t make this soup with a hock from the supermarket. Look at the ingredients of those and you will see numbers and god knows what else. This is no good. This breaks my golden rule of eating food as close to nature intended as possible. Not only that, even if you manage to find a hock that doesn’t contain odd numbers and such it will be intensively reared. Also not a good thing.
This is where I encourage you to get down to the farmers’ market or a good butcher and ask for one.
They should have salt, smoke and perhaps a bit of sugar. The butchers at my farmers’ market already make them this way. The other thing about getting them from a good butcher or farmers market is that it is so important to get really good quality meat. Animals that have had a good life and once again – have lived a life as close to their natural state as possible. Organic or biodynamic is always best if possible.
This may sound like a lot of effort to go to but once you have established a relationship with a reliable butcher you won’t look back. Knowing how you’re food is produced is so important and if you choose to eat meat as I do then I truly believe this is the way to go.
This is for one very good reason. However that animal has lived and whatever it has eaten will be going into your body. Not to mention the welfare reasons. Enough said.
Makes enough for four. You can make it go further by adding more vegetables.
1 organic/nitrate free Ham Hock
1 stick of celery
½ a carrot
1 medium zucchini
1 cup of peas
1 small to medium swede
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
Strip of lemon peel
1 small sprig of rosemary
Tsp of pepper corns
Chop all of your vegetables up – they will be whizzed so uniformity isn’t necessary.
Fry off your hock in the ghee in a heavy base pot.
Once browned a little cover with water and throw in the pepper corns, bay leaves and sprig of rosemary. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a low simmer. Don’t add salt to this recipe. The hock is salty enough. If you think at the end when it’s ready to serve you need it then add a little but I really don’t think it’s needed.
Simmer the hock until tender and falling off the bone. About 2.5 hours should do it. I also added a few celery leaves to the pot in the last ½ hour of cooking.
Poor the hock stock into another pot and continue to simmer gently. In a bowl, shred the meat from the bone and put aside for later.
You can put the bone and most of the skin back into the stock to continue to cook or as I like to, you can gnaw on the bone which I think is only the cooks right.
Now this is my secret weapon, the thing that makes this super tasty. Don’t throw out the remaining skin! It will be soft and gelatinous now. Put a bit aside, use your discretion as to how much but I like about a ten-centimetre strip.
Now in the original pot you made the stock in put some more ghee in and gently sweat all the veggies, the bit of gelatinous skin that we saved and remaining herbs and lemon peel – apart from the peas. Cook until soft.
Cover with the hock stock and let simmer until all the veg is soft. In the last ten minutes add in the peas.
Once the peas too are soft but not mush fish out any woody bits of herbs but leave the lemon peel and the skin in. Whiz up the soup and add more stock in to your desired consistency.
I promise you will not notice the skin, it will not give it a weird consistency or anything. It will add lovely depth and a really lovely savouriness and a bit of creaminess.
Adjust seasoning if needed, put the shredded ham in the soup and warm though.
Serve as is or with a dollop of kefir, crème fraiche or natural yogurt. I like mine with sheep yogurt, toasted pepitas and Parmesan is also good.
The leftovers are also so good made into baked eggs! Such a great way to use up the daggy bits in the fridge. In the image below I added some mushrooms too.