On Monday my mum popped over to bring me a lovely ham hock that she’d picked up from the local butcher in Louth, Lincolnshire where my gran lives. Mum goes up there every couple of weeks and always takes advantage of the amazingly cheap and fantastic quality meat you can get there. On mum’s advice I vaguely followed a recipe she recommended for green pea and ham soup and made a delicious dinner (with masses of left overs for lunch for the rest of the week). Best of all, the dinner cost me a matter of a few pounds – the ham hock was £1.45(!), and the only other things I needed were a bag of frozen peas for £1.70, some basic vegetables, small carton of cream and bread and butter. I made the bread myself so that cost a few pence for flour and yeast. Bargain!
So she’d presented me with this lump of meat and bone, with the skin and hair still on and I managed to only find it mildly disturbing. I love baking (when I can be bothered), but am less motivated to cook savoury dishes and so I’d never started with a lump of pig and created a meal out of it. After a rather panicked day where I managed to fit little bits of unfamiliar food preparation in around all the other things I needed to go out and do, this was the result:
And you’ll have to take my word for it, but it was delicious!
For the Ham Stock:
1 ham hock (I’m afraid I didn’t weigh mine, but mum said they just come in random sizes according to the pig so i guess just use what you can get)
1 head of celery
3.5 litres of water
1 bay leaf
12 whole black peppercorns
For the green bit:
Big bag of frozen peas (approx 900g – my bag was labelled 907g for whatever strange reason)
1 Onion (optional)
2 cloves garlic or 1 sprig mint (or both if you feel like it)
75g plain flour
275ml double cream
Salt and pepper to taste
What I did:
I’m vaguely following Brian Turners’s recipe from a book called ‘Soup Kitchen’ – I’ve written this down from memeory, including the parts where I went wrong/changed the recipe or generally decided something different sounded nicer.
The instructions told me to cover the ham hock in cold water and leave it for 12 hours so I dumped it in a panful of water last thing at night and forgot about it until lunchtime the following day.
You then pour away that water and cover the ham again with the 3.5l of water for the recipe. Bring it to the boil and skim off any scummy bits that float to the top (I hardly had any of these). While it’s heating up, peel and roughly chop the carrots and onions, and roughly chop the celery (I literally hacked each veg into about 3-4 big chunks – you could also leave them whole – it really doesn’t matter). When the water is boiling, add the veg, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Then add the bay leaf and peppercorns, cover and simmer on low for 2-2 1/2 hours. The recipe said ‘until the ham is cooked’, but I didn’t know how to check that so I went out and picked up DS from school, popped to the shops to buy peas and cream and fail to find mint and left the thing bubbling on the lowest heat for the whole 2 1/2 hours. Then take out the ham, pour the stock out into a bowl/jug through a sieve to collect all the veg bits (you can throw these away or use them to bulk out a veg soup or something).
Towards the end of the stock cooking time you start to make the green bit. Melt the butter in a pan (this pan needs to be big enough to fit all 2-3 litres of the finished soup in), add the finely chopped onion and the garlic or mint (I’d used up all my onions in the stock and forgot to buy more so I just used a generous amount of garlic instead, and no mint). Add half of the peas, cover and cook gently for 3-5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Then slowly add 1.8l of the finished ham stock, stirring as you add it to make sure the flour doesn’t go lumpy. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.
While that’s cooking, blanch the rest of the peas by throwing into boiling water for 2 mins and then cold water to stop them cooking too much (this keeps them nice and green). Hack up the ham hock to remove the skin, fat and bone and chop up the meat into juicy little pieces. In the process of this give bits of skin, meat and bones to children to gnaw on (DS very much enjoyed sucking the marrow out of the bone!).
Despite the vultures in the kitchen, I got an extremely generously-filled cereal bowl of lean meat from my ham hock. Though I’d never had to deal with this kind of meat before, I found it really satisfying seeing how it all comes together + being able to show DS too – really made me enjoy the meal more and encouraged him to taste all these new things!
When the soup’s cooked, add half of the blanched peas and a handful of the ham and blend the soup into lovely green-ness.
Last of all, toss in the rest of the peas and ham to add some texture, pour in the cream and season to taste.
In the morning I’d made some wholemeal bread using a lovely malted multigrain flour I’d got last year from a mill when we were on holiday (and then typically forgotten about at the back of the cupboard!). It tasted nice enough, but I was in such a rush I didn’t need it for long enough and it didn’t rise properly so it looks a bit dejected.
Anyway, serve the soup with warm buttered bread and enjoy the snuggly soupy feeling in your tummy for the rest of the evening!