Mains

Pea and ham soup

The appeal of this dish with humble origins is nothing new – and with these robust flavours, it's little wonder.
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3H 25M

Every winter, split pea and ham soup rockets to the top of our most-searched list, satisfying the craving for a warm bowl of comfort. Here we’ve tarted it up a bit and added some fresh peas (okay, fresh-frozen), for their vibrant colour and sweet flavour. The pork hocks give the soup a gelatinous texture and a moreish smokiness – keep the pieces chunky for added texture. The cooking time on this split pea and ham soup may take longer than a quick and easy soup you’d turn to midweek, but it’s popular for good reason.

Ingredients

Herb butter

Method

1.

Heat butter in a large saucepan over low-medium heat, add onion and garlic and sauté until tender (10-12 minutes). Add ham hocks, cover with cold water (about 4 litres), bring to the simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until ham is falling from the bone (1-1½ hours). Remove hocks from saucepan, set aside to cool and, when cool enough to handle, remove skin and bone (discard), coarsely shred meat and set aside.

2.

Meanwhile, add split green peas to stock and simmer until very tender (45 minutes-1 hour). Add baby peas (reserve some for garnish if desired) and simmer until bright green (1-2 minutes). Purée in batches in a blender until smooth, add shredded ham to soup (reserve a little for garnish if desired), season to taste and keep warm.

3.

Meanwhile, for herb butter, combine ingredients in a small bowl, season to taste and set aside.

4.

Preheat a grill to high. Place baguette cut-side up on a baking tray and grill until golden (1-2 minutes each side), then spread with herb butter. Serve with hot soup topped with reserved baby peas (steamed until bright green) and shredded ham.

How do you thicken pea and ham soup?

In this recipe, the soup is thickened through simmering the split peas. Pureeing the pea and ham hock also adds to the thickness.

Other soup recipes may add flour, cream, cheese, rice or pasta to thicken them. But these ingredients add a different dimension to whatever soup you’re making, and in this particular recipe, there’s no need for anything else.

Origins and other recipe ideas

A good pea and ham soup can be as simple as split peas simmered with nothing more than a ham bone, or as luxuriant as the emerald version we’ve shot here.

In fact, the classic combination of pea soup with ham hock (or even leftover ham) features across many centuries and cultures. Different versions, like this Dutch pea and ham soup, are served across Europe. But perhaps its strongest association is with England. A very thick pea soup is called a London Particular, after the heavy fogs that enveloped the city in Charles Dickens’s day.

At the time of its origins – some sources put it as far back as ancient Greece – the split pea soup with ham was testament to the scarcity of resources in the colder months. With little fresh produce available, the only option was dried legumes and salted meats, in this case split peas and smoked or salt pork. Humble origins aside, this pea and ham soup is still one of our all-time favourites – and the perfect cure for the winter blues.

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