I've been making soup lately as the days grow colder and one of our favourites is pea and ham. I always use this recipe from Alice Hart's book Friends at my table.
1 smoked ham hock
1 large onion
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
bouquet garni of 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of thyme and 2 sprigs of rosemary
300g green or yellow split peas
400g fresh or frozen green peas
Soak the ham hock one to four hours in plenty of cold water to remove excess salt, then rinse, before cooking.
Put everything (apart from the fresh or frozen peas) in a large, lidded saucepan with 1.6 litres of water and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat to low and leave to cook gently, lid on, for an hour and a half. Add the fresh or frozen peas and cook for a further five minutes.
Turn the heat off and remove the bouquet garni, then carefully fish out the ham hock, dropping it into a bowl. Allow the hock to cool a little before shredding or chopping the meat quite finely, removing and discarding the skin, fat and bone as you go. Set aside.
Puree the soup in the pan with a stick blender, or pour into an upright blender in two batches. I don’t puree this thoroughly, so the soup retains some texture, but blitz until smooth if you prefer.
Return the soup to the heat, along with the ham. Taste and add salt if needed and a little black pepper.
Let down with water if the soup seems too thick to you, the consistency is supposed to be hearty though, not thin. Serves 8.
As you can see the recipe says to make a bouquet garni. Usually I'd just throw the herbs into the pot and then spend ages trying to remove the bay leaves etc once the soup is cooked. It's easier if you've made a little posy of the herbs and tied them all together with thread or string. But the simplest method of all is to put the herbs into a little drawstring muslin bag. Most kitchen shops sell these but I made my own bigger version to hold plenty of fresh herbs. Instructions coming.
I hope you try the soup. I'm sure it would also make a nice vegan version. Minus the ham, of course.