Why this blog?

"If you are careful," Garp wrote, "if you use good ingredients, and you don't take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day; what you make to eat. With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane."
from John Irving's novel, The World According to Garp

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pea & Ham Soup

When my husband and I got engaged, we called his parents in Australia to tell them, and one of the first things I asked his mom was, "What does he like to eat?"  Before she could answer, he called out, "Pea and ham soup!  Tell her how to make pea and ham soup!"  So she very kindly did.  I had never had it before, and I have to admit, the first time I saw it, all green and Exorcist-prop-like, I had serious doubts.  But it's actually pretty damned yummy.  This last time, I made it using the still-meaty remains of our honey-roasted Christmas ham, and it was outstanding - if you've got one available, I would recommend that over ham hocks.  My hubby claims his mom can make it taste wonderful with canned ham as a base, but I haven't been brave enough to even try that yet.

On my lunch hour, about six hours before we planned to eat, I melted half a stick (1/4 cup) of butter in a big, heavy-bottomed soup pot over low heat.  I chopped a medium onion very fine and sweated it in the melted butter until the pieces turned translucent - if you hear sizzling, your heat is up too high.  If it turns brown, you've cooked it too long; start over. 

To the sweated onion, I added the ham (the meaty bone or a couple of hamhocks, just enough to have about a cup's worth of meat in the soup when it all cooks down), a pound of split peas, seven cups of water, a cup of chicken broth, and an envelope of onion soup mix (the kind you'd use to make chip dip). I put a lid on it and turned the heat up to high.  When it started to boil, I stirred it and turned the heat down to low, just enough heat to keep it simmering.  Then I left it alone and went back to work.  My sweetie checked on it every half hour or so all afternoon to make sure it had plenty of liquid and to stir to make sure the peas weren't sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If it gets too thick, just add water.

Four hours later, I came home and took the lid off the pot - the whole house smelled wonderful, and my husband smiled at me and said, "I love you soooo much."  I fished out the hambone and all the chunks of meat and skin still big enough to catch with tongs and set it all aside on a plate to cool enough to touch while I seasoned the soup to taste - some freshly ground black pepper and a teaspoon or so of dried parsley flakes.  I didn't think it needed any more salt, but I noticed both my husband and my dad salted theirs in the bowl, so taste it for yourself and see.  I removed all the skin from the ham and chopped, tore, and shredded the meat into very-small-bite-sized pieces before adding them back into the soup.  I brought it all back up to a hard boil and let it cook down for another half hour.  Some recipes I've seen say blend it all up with a hand blender, but the peas cook down to nothing but a thick, vivid green liquid; there's no evidence they were ever separate objects at all.  And I like to be able to see and taste the chunks of ham. 

I served it with Jiffy corn muffins, and both my husband and my dad seemed to love it.  This recipe makes about six to eight servings, I think; I still have leftovers in the refrigerator.  My husband had another bowl for lunch today.  It was so thick, I had to add more water to it to heat it up, but it still tasted really good.


  1. I will try that if I ever am given a break from making red beans, LOL. I love split pea and ham soup! (Ajay/ Amanda Justice here, btw). :)