I have been going through a slightly obssessive ham and pea phase of late, buying fresh peas at the market and eating them in a variety of ways from speedy dishes like peas with parma ham, spring onions, fresh garlic and lemon, to last minute soups with bacon on top. Peas and ham are perfect partners in every way, from the flavour combination of intensely savoury hamand the sweet pea, to the coarse texture of the ham contrasting with the smoothness of the pea, and the colours, green and pink dancing in your bowl, begging to be eaten.
I had seen a Heston Blumenthal recipe in the Times Online, and was keen to try it, but knew it wouldn’t be a quick affair. As much as I love what he does, I am not sure I have his dedication or stamina, at least with time being so limiting at the moment, amounting to, at most a rare evening or a weekend day. This particular recipe was from The Hinde’s Head, his gastropub, so I thought, surely, it won’t be too intense? I have also eaten there before and really enjoyed it, so I decided to give it a go.
How was it? If I had made the stock the day before it would have been very straight forward but doing it all the same day took alot of time. Especially as I started at 4pm. Was it worth it? Yes, every minute, I’d just organise it better next time. The stock was gorgeous, so savoury and I even got a secondbatch of stock from the bone, once I’d stripped the ham from it, I boiled it again with the fat that I wasn’t using, some suitable vegetables, herbs and peppercorns for a couple of hours.
The soup itself was a lovely bright green, with pancetta, ham and peas peeking through, very different to a traditional split pea and ham soup, it is much livelier, more fragrant and so very sweet. It was really substantial, bordering on a stew and would have been an ample main course.
I didn’t alter the recipe in anyway, so I’ll link to it rather than reproduce it. Enjoy!
Recipe: Pea and Ham Soup
- recipe adaped from The Hinde’s Head, by Heston Blumenthal for The Sunday Times
For the ham hock stock
2 onions, cut in half
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
1 large leek (white part only), chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
4-6 sprigs of thyme
4 black peppercorns
1 ham hock
2 litres water
For the soup
200g shallots, sliced
75g pancetta, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
500g frozen peas, defrosted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 smoked bacon rashers, cut into 1cm dice
180g frozen peas
Combine all the ingredients for the stock in a large pan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Skim any scum that rises to the surface and reduce the heat. Allow to simmer gently for 2 hours until the ham hock is tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then strain the stock. Remove the ham from the bone and leave to the side.
Now for the soup. Heat the butter in a large pan, add the shallots, pancetta and garlic. Sauté for 10-15 minutes until the shallots are soft.
Add the stock and bring to the boil. Add the peas, raise the heat again, then purée with a hand blender or similar. If the soup is too thick, add a little water until the desired consistency is achieved. Check for seasoning, it is unlikely you will need salt but you might like some pepper.
Shortly before serving, fry the diced bacon in a hot pan until crisp. Cook the remaining frozen peas in boiling salted water until tender, then drain.
To serve as Heston does: divide the peas and reserved ham between 6 soup bowls. Pour the soup over this, then scatter over the bacon and drizzle a little of the bacon fat from the pan. (YES: you must!).