Monday, June 18, 2012

Soup: Pea and Ham

So it's winter. Time for soup.  Now, I'm not a fan of pea and ham soup. I associate it with nasty thick brown goop that tastes bad. But my interest is piqued by the bright green soup shown in the book, so I decided to give Heston's Pea and Ham Soup a go.

This is a recipe that nearly didn't happen after significant difficulty in finding a main ingredient - the gammon.  For those unfamiliar: 
  1. Ham that has been cured or smoked like bacon.
Apparently, noone here in Perth cooks them except Christmas time. I rang around a bunch of places. I only found it at one out of about six, but I blanched at the idea of buying more than twice the weight of what I needed. As a last ditch attempt, I called my dear chef mate who, despite being at work, managed to find me some with a mate of his. Mondo's to the rescue!

Off to the most excellent Mondo's where I acquired not only the required gammon, but also two different types of bacon. (One of which is for another dish). I can certainly recommend Mondo's. I honestly felt silly for not checking there in the first instance. They have great stuff, and reasonably priced. Unlike some in the western suburbs.

Anyway, step one of the soup making, is making a ham stock. And this is where I met another hurdle.

Unfortunately, what with the running around to source gammon, and the unexpected need to go shoe and jeans shopping with my small person, I didn't get back until 3pm, making it not doable that day. So it got pushed out to Sunday.

Steps to do:

  1. Make gammon (ham) stock
  2. Let the whole thing cool
  3. Shred some of the gammon
  4. defrost (a lot of) frozen peas
  5. Cook shallots, etc
  6. Reheat stock
  7. Put in most of the peas, cook some more
  8. Puree it
  9. Strain it
  10. eat with shredded ham and extra peas.
As far as many of these recipes go, this is pretty easy, apart from making sure you set aside enough time.  So let's see the evidence!

Making Stock

I decided that it was too late to make that soup, but clearly not too late on a Saturday night to make stock. I can be odd like that. So, here's the stock ingredients, and the requisite cup of coffee. it's requisite for me, the recipe doesn't require it. You might like wine, or scotch or I don't know, rainwater. Whatever is your thing.

See my lovely gammon? Smells good, even before cooking.

 Okay, stuff thinly sliced, gammon in the oven proof pot.
 Put in your water, heat it up on the stove.
 Ready for it's 5 hour bake in the oven, lid on.
 Mmmm, all done. Smelled so good. Very strong ham flavour. Seriously, you could just serve this stock and it would be very tasty.
 Okay, next morning, all cooled down. Ready to sieve the contents.
 Gammon comes out. Look how nice this looks. Yummm..
 Straining the stock...
 And squishing all the veg to get every last drop of stock out. It feels almost criminal when I throw the veg away after making stock, but then I remind myself most of the flavour isn't in the veggies any more, its in the liquid.
 Stock looking nice, ready for the fridge.

 Making soup

A chunk of gammon weighed for shredding for later inclusion. The big bit I stuck in the freezer, I'll do something with it later. Too good to waste.
 Frozen peas weighed out. Almost a whole bag. Heston points out since peas are flash frozen frozen peas are better than fresh (unless its just out of the garden type thing).
 Peas defrosting on towels to absorb all the excess water.
You know what a big pot of ham stock needs? More bacon! Beautiful streaky bacon from Mondos. I wish I'd bought more. Anyway, bacon, garlic and onion doing its thing.
 Heating up the stock.  I had some left over, which I've frozen for later shenanigans.

 You know what this soup needs, for something different? Butter!
 The defrosted peas go in with the butter, and get purreed. I used my stab blender like normal, but in hindsight I wished I'd used either my food processor or jug blender. I just don't think it got as smooth as I would have liked. Oh well, next time.
 Whizz, whizz.. The thing I do notice immediately, is that this stuff is BRIGHT GREEN. That had to be in capitals, that's just how bright it was.

 So once it's pureed, you strain it. I am starting to think with all this strainign I keep doing I should get one of those solid chef ones.
 After most of the liquid is through you can see me squishing and forcing it through as much as I can. On the left you can see the solid stuff left over after all the squishing. Again, that feeling of throwing after half the stuff I started with. I am coming to accept though, that doing this sort of thing does lead to great flavour.

Okay, did I mention I was also making the mint oil that's recommended to accompany it? I'm making mint oil. So while the soup is aside, I measure out my mint. It needed a lot more than I expected to get to 25g! Almost a whole big bunch. That gets blanched in boiling water, then ice to keep its colour.
Then, you whiz it with grapeseed oil.  Thankfully I have this little guy. (The volume of the blanched mint was a fraction of the fresh).
Ta-da! Can you guess what i'm going to do now?

More straining! I used my little tea strainer, which barely managed. But I thought the big one would be too messy.
 Look at my (other) bright green ingredient. Predictably, smelled quite nice, and a much lighter mint flavour than I was expecting.
 Okay, time to serve. Heat up the soup. I just realised now that I  forgot to fluff it up with a stab blender to make it frothy
 Okay serving! pile of ham, extra peas and drips of mint oil. Doesn't it look pretty?


Well, I was convinced. You known how pea and ham soup doesn't actually taste like pea and ham (because its made with split peas, and bacon bones I think). Well, this soup tastes like pea and ham. And a dash of mint. Which of course, it should. But then much like that chicken stock that was so revelatory to me since it tasted like roast chicken, this was a similar pleasant surprise.

It was a straightforward dish to make (other than needing the time to bake the stock, but that wasn't hard). It was all pretty basic stuff really, no complicated steps or anything. It looked great and the taste was very good. I'd certainly consider this for a dinner party.

Guest opinions:

Family enjoyed it. (Two potential guests we caught too late and missed out.) Daughter pleasantly surprised despite insisting she didn't like pea and ham soup. Husband noted, "It's very ham-y" and then "Nice". This was later expanded in later conversation to "The best pea and ham soups I've ever eaten."

If you are a ham/bacon fan (and not adverse to peas) I do think this would be a winner.

Personally, I still can't get over the colour! Almost like real food isn't that green, is it?

Next: Hmmm.. maybe eggs?


  1. Peas are. And I can't believe you haven't been to Mondos before now! Mondos is of the awesomeness.

    Soup looks fab.

  2. Oh, that looks and sounds like something I might be just about willing to try! Delicious!!!

    +1 for Mondo's. They do have good stuff there. :-)

  3. Yes it is pea and ham soup like no other. It tastes of peas and ham!