Pea and ham soup is the hearty, warming type of dish that appeals to residents of those parts of Australia that are chilly for long periods in winter; and to people who experience similar conditions on the other continents.
I have clear childhood memories of Mum making pea and ham soup; she and Dad were both partial to it. My young palate didn’t take to it but I was fascinated by how gelatinous the soup was before being heated to serve. Jump to 2010, when Maggie and I prepared a glazed ham for Christmas. We converted the bones and leftover meat into soup using a recipe we found on www.taste.com.au. We have modified and elaborated the recipe, and we have learnt that the quality of the ham hock is critical.
500g green split peas
1 brown onion
1 large leek
3 medium carrots, peeled
3 celery stalks, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 ham hock, up to 1kg
2¾ litres (11 cups) of water (use a little less if the ham hock has a light flavour)
bouquet garni (3 sprigs thyme, 1 fresh bay leaf, 6-8 black peppercorns bound in muslin)
salt and pepper
- Place the split peas in a large bowl, cover generously with cold water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse.
- Chop the vegetables finely. Heat the oil in a very large saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetables and cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes.
- Add the split peas, ham hock, water and bouquet garni. Cover and bring to the boil. Remove any scum from the surface with a spoon. Begin to season by adding 1 tsp salt.
- Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours or until the ham is falling off the bone and the soup has thickened. Season with a generous grinding of pepper and, depending on the amount of the salt released by the hock, an extra pinch or two of salt.
- Remove the ham hock and pieces of ham from the pan. When they have cooled, remove all the meat and shred. Return the ham to the soup, stir well and adjust seasoning one last time.
We used an Otway Free Range Pork hock, supplied by Ashburton Quality Meats. The vegetables all came from Toscano’s – the flavour of their carrots is always superior. And the water was delivered to our home by Yarra Valley Water.