May 05, 2010

Comfort in a Bowl: Yummy Split Pea and Ham Soup

With all of the delicious spring veggies starting to arrive at the market - fava beans, local asparagus, fiddleheads - there's time for one last bowl of hearty soup before warmer weather arrives.  Richard is the soup maker in the family, and this favourite has been one of his staples for years now.  Be sure to always save the ham bone when you buy a holiday ham (they can be frozen), or used smoked pork hocks, as Richard did for the first time, with equally yummy results.

Split Pea and Ham Soup
adapted from The New Basics by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
serves six, and guaranteed to solicit second helpings so plan accordingly!

1 pound dried green split peas
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1 meaty ham bone, or 2 smoked ham hocks
2 ribs celery, leaves included, diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, divided
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced peeled carrots
1 cup diced onion
1 leek (white part only), rinsed and sliced
1 cup slivered fresh spinach leaves
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse the split peas in a strainer, and then combine them with the stock and water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil.

2. Add the ham bone or hocks, celery, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, and the tarragon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.

3. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the carrots, onion, and leek. Cook until the vegetables are wilted, 10 minutes. Add them to the soup pot, along with the spinach. Simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes. You may need to add more water or stock.

4. Remove the soup from the heat. Remove the ham bone or hocks, and shred the meat from the bone, removing any excess fat. Return the meat to the soup.

5. Add the sherry, pepper, and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley. Heat through, and serve immediately.