Thursday, February 21, 2013

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Ham Hock

A classic Split Pea Soup with Ham is the perfect winter dish. Hearty, warm and delicious, it's easy to prepare, fun to make and it's also good for you. Made with dried split peas and cooked with an intensely flavourful, smokey ham hock, this hearty and satisfying soup can also be made as a 'day-after' soup, prepared with the bone and trimmings from a roast ham. For those of us who generally cook for two, it's just as convenient to buy a ham hock, but be sure to get your butcher to cut in half, as it will be easier to simmer in the soup later.

My very handsome ham hock. The hock is the joint between the foot 
of the hog and the upper thigh

I must admit that I love the look of ham hocks, and sometimes make this soup just so that I can buy one from the market. They may look like a tough cut, but when cooked slowly, they release a wonderful smoky flavour that is undeniably delicious, and gives the broth it's great flavour. Made with an impossibly short list of ingredients, this recipe for Split Pea Soup is great for lunch or dinner, it freezes well, and like many hearty soups or stews, it tastes even better the following day.

Split Yellow Pea Soup with Ham Hock
6 to 8 

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 1/2 cups split peas
1 1/2 lb smoked ham hock
8 cups chicken stock 
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, saute onion, celery and carrots over medium-high heat, for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened but not browned. Add the peas, ham hock, thyme and bay leaves and cover with stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for 1 hour. 

Remove the thyme, bay leaves and ham hock. Process the soup in a blender, food processor, until smooth, then return to a clean pan. I use an immersion blender, so I can make the soup in one pot. Once the ham hock has cooled, pull the meat off the bone and shred into small pieces. Add the ham to the soup and heat through gently, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

Garnish with dollop of sour cream, crème fraiche or greek yoghurt, and finish with a sprig of fresh parsley.

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