Beautiful soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
When a chicken is roasted, as it is often on a Sunday in this house, the bones always go to make a beautiful, deeply savory stock and not a scrap of meat is wasted. Home made chicken stock is a great thing to have stashed away in the freezer for soups and stews. My friend and Twitter buddy Catriona over at Wholesome.ie recently gave a lovely recipe for noodle soup made from the remains of her sunday roast. Similarly when I cook a ham or gammon I wouldn't dream of throwing away the cooking liquid. The ham itself is usually for a pie with chicken and mushrooms, or for good old bacon and cabbage. If you buy one bigger than you need it's the best way of having quality meat for sandwiches. The children are not keen on wet, slimy packet ham and neither am I.
Ham hocks are the cheapest way of all to make a nice ham stock and when I get one of those I nearly always use it to make my favorite pea and ham soup. The recipe gives the instructions for the stock from scratch using a ham hock - if you are cooking a ham it is probably worth bringing it to the boil first in a pot of water and then changing the water to take out some of the salt and proceeding with adding the rest of the ingredients from there. This recipe started life as Heston Blumenthal's from the menu at The Hinds Head. He insists on frozen peas for this as they are frozen within minutes of being picked, preserving the intensity of the flavour.
For the stock
1 ham hock
1 small onion, halved
1 celery stalk, very roughly chopped
1 large carrot, very roughly chopped
1 large leek, white part only, halved
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bay leaf
4 or 5 sprigs of thyme
4 or five black peppercorns
For the soup
200g shallots, sliced
500g frozen peas
a clove of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Put the ham hock in a very large pan with 2 litres water and bring to the boil with the rest of the stock ingredients. Reduce the heat the heat and simmer gently, uncovered for two and a half hours until the ham hock is cooked. Remove from the heat and leave to cool then strain the stock through a sieve keeping the hock to one side.
For the soup heat the butter in a large pan add the sliced shallots pancetta and garlic and sweat for 10-15 mins until the shallots are tender add the peas and stock bring to the boil and puree in a liquidiser. pass through a sieve into a clean pot. Bring back to the boil and correct the seasoning. If the soup is too thick add a little water until it is at the desired consistency. Flake the meat from the ham hock and stir into the smooth soup. you can garnish with a few extra whole peas or some fried and crumbled bacon or a leaf or two of aromatic mint.