Pea and ham soup has been my go-to comfort food over many years but I have tired of the heaviness and sludginess (is that a word?) of the way it is cooked in my family. I yearned to make it lighter, good in all seasons especially in spring when the leeks are amazing and the other members of the allium family are a revelation in our cooking. Simon Hopkinson inspired the making of the light flavorsome Ham Hock Broth as a separate exercise. I have introduced new vegetables to the broth but taken Simon's method of cooking the split peas separately. After I bring the broth, split peas and vegetables together, I put some in my favorite bowl, sprinkle chives generously and add a pat of my Sassy Spicy Butter. Bliss! Here is where I am happily placed gastronomically speaking right now. Tomorrow it might change. —krusher
10 serves & some over
Smoked Ham Hock Broth
large leeks, washed and chopped
carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
cooked ham hock meat (optional)
Sassy Spicy Butter (1 tspn per serving) See recipe coming
Soak split peas overnight or at least for 3 hours in cold water, changing the water at least once. Drain, rinse and put in a large pot covered by at least 3 inches of cold water higher than the peas. Bring to the boil then lower heat to steady bubbling cooking to a softened consistency (about an hour). Drain and put back into cooking pot with lid on to keep warm while the final cooking of the Pea and Ham Soup is taking place.
Add butter, leeks and carrots to soup pot and stir gently until softened. Add the ham hock broth (less 4 cups of broth which you will add to the split peas prior to blending)and bring to the boil. Immediately turn the heat down to get a rolling simmer for 35 to 40 minutes.
While the broth is bubbling along, gradually blend the cooked split peas with the broth in batches to a smooth consistency (or to your own taste). If you run out of broth use hot water to complete.
When the ham hock broth and vegetables are ready, use a stick blender to coarsely blend the vegetables. Add the blended split peas and the cooked ham hock meat, Stir gently and cook until the the different elements of the soup are integrated and hot.
Spoon into a generously sized soup bowl. Add the Sassy Spicy butter and incorporate as you desire . Lavishly sprinkle fresh picked chives over the top. A glass of chilled pinot gris of excellent quality is the perfect accompaniment.