Thursday, May 22, 2014

Recipe - green pea and ham soup (and veggie option!)

Its a cool autumn evening and I was working from home so decided to put a pot of soup on to cook slowly over the course of the afternoon.  I made one of my favourites- pea and ham!  Split peas are low GI- with a glycemic index of 25 they are an excellent choice if you are diabetic or watching your weight as they give you slow sustained energy. According to the Glycemic Index Foundation "Like other legumes, dried peas are a nutritional storehouse because they are slowly digested, a little goes a long way"

So let's use them to make some soup! You can make this recipe rapidly in about 45 minutes, however the soup turns out much better if you take it low and slow and give it around 3-4 hours. Alternatively put it in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours while you're at work. Traditionally pea and ham soups use a whole ham bone or bacon hock. While this gives the soup a very rich flavour, it also makes them quite fatty and salty. Instead, I have chosen to basically make a vegetable and pea soup, and to add diced smoked ham towards the end. For a vegan or vegetarian option, or if you don't like pork, just leave it out for a lovely rich split pea soup.

You will need:
2 cups dried split green peas
3 large carrots
1 large onion
1/2 bunch (about 4 stalks) celery
2 tsp minced garlic or 2 cloves fresh garlic
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (salt reduced)
250g ham (I used smoked ham hock meat in a pack from the supermarket (got it at ALDI), but you could use any sliced ham or diced lean bacon if you prefer. Alternatively, buy a whole bacon or ham hock. All preserved meat like this can be salty, so don't use too much, make sure your stock is salt reduced and I doubt you will need any salt for seasoning)
2 tsp dried or fresh rosemary
black pepper
herbs for garnish

To prepare your peas, first check the pack for any instructions. Generally they need a quick wash.  Place your peas in a sieve or colander and check for any stray grains or discoloured peas and discard. Wash the peas with running water until the water runs clear- should only take 3 or 4 rinses. If gluten is an issue for you, you may want to be pretty careful with this step in case of stray grains in processing.  Set the peas to one side.

Dice your onion, carrots and celery finely and add them to a large, heavy based pot. I use a cast iron pot as it holds the heat well and spreads it evenly, but any large pot will do fine. 

To your pot of vegetables, add the garlic and a drizzle of olive oil, the rosemary and a little black pepper and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the onion is translucent.

Next add the peas, 4 cups of stock and 2 cups of water.
If you are using a whole hock, remove the rind and underlying fat and put it in the pot. 
Keep the pot on medium heat until the liquid starts to simmer.
Turn the heat down as low as you can (I move mine onto the smallest gas ring) and put the lid on.

Leave the soup to cook slowly like this for the next two hours, stirring every half an hour or so to check it is not sticking on the bottom. The liquid level was just right for me, but if your stove is hotter you may need to top up the water.

After around 2 hours your soup should be cloudy with partially disintegrated peas and very soft vegetables.  At this point if you are using a whole hock, take it out of pot now. Either use your stick blender or put the soup into a blender / food processor and whizz until it reaches the desired consistency. 

I made mine reasonably smooth, but not completely - I still like a few bits of peas and carrots for texture.

Put your soup back on the low heat on the stove. 

If you like pea and ham soup, dice around 250g of ham and add to the soup at this point. Or, if using the bacon hock, remove the meat from the bone, dice it and return to the pot.  If you are making the veggie option, leave out this step. Either way your soup needs about another 30-45 mins or so on low heat and it is done and ready to serve. 

Serve hot with some fresh herbs and black pepper for garnish. This pot serves 6-8 people and is filling, tasty, nutritious and cheap ! 

To make this in a slow cooker, do the first step on the stove (cooking onions, celery carrots and garlic for a few minutes) then put it in the slow cooker and continue the rest, just double your cooking time.   Bon appetit!

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy 

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