This wintry weather warrants some warming comfort food. Can I tempt you with some pea and ham soup? No? Better stop reading then…
Mum’s Pea and Ham Soup
a ham bone with a little meat left on it (approx 700-800g total weight) – see note below*
1 stick of celery, cut into chunks
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
half an onion, cut into chunks
6 whole peppercorns
1 bag (480g) frozen peas
Place the ham bone in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then discard the water; this helps to remove some of the saltiness from the meat. Return the bone to the pot, cover with cold water again, and add the chunks of celery, carrot and onion, plus the peppercorns. Boil for around 1.5 hours until the meat is falling off the bone.
Leave to cool for a few minutes, then strain off the liquid and reserve it. Shred the meat off the bone.
Cook the frozen peas according to the packet instructions (around 2-3 minutes in boiling water) and drain off the water.
Add the strained meaty liquid to the cooked peas and liquidise. Pour back into a saucepan, give it a good stir, and add the shredded ham. Heat the soup until it is piping hot. Taste for seasoning and adjust as you wish – bearing in mind that it probably won’t need any extra salt.
Serve with crusty bread. Feel yourself getting warmer with every mouthful.
The quantity above serves 2 generously.
*Whilst this is a very straightforward soup to make, it can sometimes be rather difficult to procure a ham bone. It isn’t your everyday ‘off-the-shelf’ item, you need to ask nicely for it, either in a butcher’s shop or at the deli counter of a supermarket if you spy something suitable; however be forewarned that at least one of the major UK chains won’t sell them on the grounds of ‘food safety’. Perhaps I’m overly reckless – and the last thing I would want is to poison you, dear readers – but to me this seems utterly ridiculous. I’m assuming you’re not going to leave the bone sitting around for days in a warm room before using it. Going to smother it in raw chicken and take a bite? Thought not. However, rather than bemoaning the nanny state in which we live, let us rise to the challenge and think of it like this: finding someone who is willing to sell you a ham bone will somehow make the rewards of this recipe all the sweeter (or meatier). Good luck.
Since I’ve raised the topic of food safety, albeit flippantly, now might be a good time to refer you to a useful and not-overly-patronising website run by the Food Standards Agency (the UK government department set up to protect the public’s health and consumer interests in relation to food). This microsite covers the basics and is aimed at home cooks – if you’re interested in more detailed information about government policy, science, industry, food labelling rules, or how to register a new catering business, check out their main site here. Their Chief Scientist even has a blog – go on, click the link and make his day as he sees his readership stats suddenly shoot up :).