Monday, March 15, 2010

Split Pea & Ham Hock Soup

I love this particular soup because it so easy to make and always tastes fabulous. Decided to make some for the weekend as I had a hock in the freezer, had some celery and some yellow split peas and a bag of lovely multi coloured heritage carrots. Even the last of a bunch of parsley so I was all set. I wanted something already made when we got home Sunday night without the faff of cooking a roast or whatever.

Best laid plans! I am currently much taken with heritage carrots - they come in shades from translucent pale to almost black, with many tinges of orange through purple in between. Some are scarlet or golden but all of them are beautiful. And I am a sucker for beautiful food. They come in numerous varieties from a time before commercial farming for supermarkets and large scale agriculture. They also taste great, particularly when roasted.

So I started the soup, chopped all the bits, added them to my giant stockpan and set the flame to high till it all came to a simmer. What I hadn't realised was that the beautiful dark as midnight purple carrots, peeled and chopped, would not make a lovely contrast to the yellow split peas which was my plan. They would rather leach their colour as well as their sweetness into the liquid, turning the whole lot a rather interesting shade of mud. Not an appetising shade, either.

Fortunately the finished dish smelled gorgeous, and tasted as good as ever. If I eat with my eyes closed I will never know the difference!

Split Pea & Ham Soup
1 ham hock
500g yellow split peas
4 sticks celery, washed and roughly chopped
4 carrots - choose your colour carefully! - peeled and cut into thin rings
2 onions, peeled and quartered and stuck with a couple of cloves
Bouquet garni of bayleaves, celery leaves, parsley and thyme

Put everything into a really large pan and cover with at least 2 litres of water, more if the pan will hold it. Bring to a simmer over a high heat and skim the froth from the top as it forms.

Turn the heat down to allow the broth to simmer very gently and let it cook for a couple of hours, till the volume has reduced by about a quarter and the peas have collapsed. Take the pan off the heat.

When the contents have cooled - for me this was overnight - take the hock out. Strip all the meat from the bone, discarding the skin and the fat as you go. This is a wildly messy process, particularly if you've decided to do it in a hurry before you run out the door for work!

Stir the shredded meat back into the soup. Reheat and serve in deep bowls with crusty bread.

Funny thing was, by the time it was cooked, the carrots were a lovely bright orange. It's just the soup that's not! Perhaps all carrots are orange in their soul.

Watching Mad Men on the tele I left it a little longer than is perhaps wise, and we ended up with bowls of deeply comforting pottage closer to stew than soup, but lovely. A good end to the winter.

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