Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Classic Winter Dish: Split Pea & Ham Hock Soup






Hearty, warm and delicious, Split Pea & Ham Hock Soup is the perfect dish for a chilly winter night. Made with dried split peas and infused with an intensely flavourful, smokey and meaty ham hock, this comforting and soul-satisfying soup can also be made as a 'day-after' soup, prepared with the bone and trimmings from a sweet and smoky Sunday roasted 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. 




The ham 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 give the broth great flavour. Made with a short list of ingredients, this recipe is great for lunch or dinner, freezes well, and like many hearty soups or stews, even tastes even better the following day.







Split Yellow Pea Soup with Ham Hock
Serves 
6

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 1/2 cups split green 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

Garnish:
1 cup sour cream, crème fraiche or greek yoghurt
6 sprigs fresh parsley


In a large saucepan, sauté the 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 one hour. 

After the stock has cooked trough, discard the thyme and bay leaves, but reserve the ham hoc in a large bowl. Meanwhile, process the soup in a blender or food processor, and pulse until smooth, then return to a clean pan — I like to use a hand immersion blender so the soup can be made 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.

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