As cooler weather approaches, many home cooks
(at least in the Western world) will think of preparing a hearty pea and ham soup
At the time of writing, Everything2 carries several recipes for this quintessentially foul weather dish, but the database is lacking a solid, basic, and modern interpretation. My own recipe is a thoroughly wicked artery-clogging celebration of the classic.
simonc's wicked winter pea and ham soup
The preparation and serving of this recipe should take approximately two days. This is not a dish to rush.
PART ONE: THE INGREDIENTS
Procure a kilogram of ham bones from your butcher, the meatier the better. Also purchase 250 grams of good ham off the bone or sliced smoked ham. Consider visiting an organic butcher to support kinder farming practices.
At the greengrocer, purchase two large fresh sweet carrots, and three or four brown onions. Ensure your onions are firm -- reject any specimens that are soft. Get one large bunch of eschallot onions (the long green ones), and a head of garlic. You might also pick up some fresh and crunchy sprouts (such as mung) for the garnish.
At the grocery store, purchase one kilogram of dried split green peas, some frozen green peas (better than fresh for the purposes of this recipe, as they'll be used for colour), some cracked black peppercorns, and a small carton of sour cream.
PART TWO: THE STOCK
A good time to start your stock is in the morning (I usually start mine on a Saturday morning, with a view to serving the soup for Sunday night).
You should have a stock pot, or at least a very large saucepan. If we're going through the effort of preparing a slow soup, we'd might as well make double what we need, so we can freeze the left-over portion.
Wash your ham bones and carrots under cold water. Drop them into your stock pot. Generously cover with cold water (filtered if you have it).
Set your covered stock pot on your stove top, on low heat. You want your stock to bubble ever so gently over a number of hours -- beware of vigorously boiling your stock, this is not recommended (your stock will taste unpleasantly sour).
Leave your stock on low heat, returning every couple of hours to skim and dispose of the foamy 'skin' that will form on top, and to top up with fresh cold water.
If you started your stock in the morning, keep it going all day, and turn the heat off before retiring to bed that night. Leave it overnight (I know I should be recommending refrigeration, but as I usually prepare this soup during a cold month, I like to leave it on the stove top in the cool of the kitchen overnight. I think it adds a depth of flavour, and in my experience, is quite safe).
The next morning, bring your stock to a low bubble again, and remove from the heat. Leave for 20 minutes to slightly cool, and then scoop out all of the bones and the now soggy carrots. Dispose of the carrots (they have imparted their sweet flavour) and drop all of your bones into a large bowl.
Strain the remaining stock with a strainer or mesh collander. Dispose of the bits that have been strained, and reserve your stock. Wash your stock pot well, and return your stock to the pot. It should be rich-smelling, cloudy, and with a brilliant sheen on top.
Congratulations, your stock is ready to become soup!
PART THREE: THE SOUP
Put your dried peas into a strainer and wash with cold water for a couple of minutes, then drop the lot into the stock pot. You want to have approximately half the volume of the stock taken up with dried peas. Set the stock and peas on low heat.
From your ham bones, carefully pick off the meat, which by this time will be stringy and fragrant. It will be a sticky, fatty job, but just get your hands into it and you'll be done in around twenty minutes. Set aside only the best, leanest pieces of meat in a smaller bowl, and dispose of the bones and fat.
Chop your brown onions fairly finely (I aim for 5mm x 5mm pieces), and crush a half a head of garlic, and fry on medium heat in a mixture of olive oil and butter (I prefer cultured butter for it's complex flavour) until caramelised. Set aside.
Take your eschallot onions and chop off the limp tops and a couple of centimetres of the fleshy bottoms. Carefully wash the remaining bits, and dispose of any wilted pieces. Chop finely and set aside.
After approximately one hour of bubbling your soup, give it a good stir. You don't want the peas to burn on the bottom of the pot. Gentle heat and regular stirring will ensure this won't happen.
After four of five hours, your peas will be sloppy. Add a couple of cupsful of frozen green peas (they'll give your dull green soup a vibrant colour). If you have a hand-held food processor wand, this is the time to get jiggy with it. Otherwise, use a potato smoosher
and get into your soup. You don't want to liquefy the peas completely -- leave some interest in the mix!
Once you have your soup at a pleasing consistency, add your meat and all your onions, and return to low heat for another couple of hours, allowing all of the ingredients to mingle.
PART FOUR: THE SERVING
Twenty minutes before serving, remove from the heat and give your soup a really good stir. Add some finely chopped ham. Allow to cool a bit.
Serve into deep bowls with a dollop of sour cream, some cracked black pepper, and a spray of sprouts to one side.
With crusty bread and butter, eaten in front of the fire with a loved one, it is difficult to imagine a more homely Sunday dinner.
PART FIVE: EPILOGUE
There will be leftovers. Your soup will freeze perfectly, once cool. Use it up next weekend with no effort other than removing from the freezer in the morning and gently heating in the evening. Or give a frozen portion to your neighbour for all round good vibes.