Pea Soup with Ham

A warming winter soup, Pea Soup with Ham may be served on its own or with French bread for a sustaining lunch or supper.

For the best results, make the soup the day before you- intend to serve it.

4-6

1 ham hock, soaked overnight and drained

5 pints water bouquet garni, consisting of

4 parsley sprigs,

1 thyme spray and

1 bay leaf tied together

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 oz. butter

1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced garlic clove, crushed small carrots, scraped and sliced 8 oz. split peas, soaked overnight and drained

Place the ham hock in a large saucepan and pour over 4 pints of the water. Add the bouquet garni and black pepper. Place the pan over moderate heat and bring the water to the boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the meat is tender and nearly falling off the bone.

Remove the pan from the heat. Using tongs or two large spoons, transfer the ham hock to a plate. Cover it with aluminium foil. Set aside.

Strain the cooking liquid into a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature. Then place the bowl in the refrigerator and chill for 2 hours or until a layer of fat has formed on the top of the liquid. Remove and discard the layer of fat. Set the cooking liquid aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam sub-sides, add the onion, garlic and carrots and fry, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent but not brown.

Add the split peas to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

Add the cooking liquid and the remaining water and bring it to the boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours or until the peas are tender. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Then puree the mixture in a food mill or electric blender. Return the pureed soup to the pan. Add more water if the soup is too thick for your taste. Set aside.

Cut the meat from the ham hock bone, discarding any fat. Chop the meat into small pieces.

Add the meat to the pan and return the pan to low heat. Simmer the soup for a further 10 minutes or until it is heated through.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the soup to a warmed tureen. Serve immediately.

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