London Particular

In Bleak House, Charles Dickens referred to the fog as the ‘London Particular’ His reference was that it was as thick as peas soup, and it was often refered to as a pea-souper. These thick fogs, to which London was prone were so thick you could barely see your hand in front of your face.

There are many variants of pea and ham hock soup. This one is by the chef Brian Turner.

Ingredients

85g (3 oz) unsalted butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
900g (2 lb) fresh garden peas
1 small bunch fresh mint, tied together
85g (3 oz) plain flour
300ml (10 fl oz) double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ham stock

1 ham hock, about 900g (2 lb) in weight
3.4 litres (6 pints) water
2 carrots, trimmed
2 onions, peeled
1 head celery, washed
12 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Method

To start the stock, soak the hock for 12 hours in cold water to cover. Drain off the soaking water, and cover the ham hock with the measured cold water. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum, then add the carrots, onions and celery, all whole. Leave gently to simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the peppercorns and bay leaf. Gently simmer on for one and a half to two hours until the ham is cooked through. Watch it carefully, you don’t want the liquid to reduce too much. Strain off the stock for the soup – you will need 1.7 litres (3 pints). Put the ham to one side and discard the vegetables and flavourings.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the finely diced onion and half the fresh peas. Add the mint, and put the lid on the pan. Leave to gently stew for 3-5 minutes. At this point add the flour, and stir in carefully, possibly taking the pan off the heat to stop it sticking. Return the pan to the heat, and cook the pea roux for 2 minutes. Do not let it colour.

Slowly add the measured hot ham stock to the roux, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition to get rid of any lumps of flour. When the stock is all added, make sure that the bottom of the pan is clear of everything. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, blanch the remaining peas in boiling water for just 2 minutes. Plunge into a bowl of iced water, which will retain the bright green colour.

At this same time it is a good idea to take the skin from the ham hock, to take the meat from the bone and to carefully cut the latter into fine dice. Mix this ham with half of the blanched peas and keep to one side.

The soup is now cooked so take out the bunch of mint and put the remaining blanched peas (not those with the ham) into the soup. Liquidise the soup, and then I like to push it through a fine sieve or chinois (conical strainer). When all is through, re-boil the soup gently, adding the double cream, and checking for seasoning. Season as necessary. Put the reserved peas and ham into the soup, and serve immediately.

Many supermarkets now have fesh cooked ham hocks served hot, but for this soup you will need to go to a good butcher to obtain a ham hock.

Traditionally the soup is not served with the ham, but you may wish to slice some off the hock and serve it with the soup.

I have changed the ingredients to use fresh peas, fresh peas from the garden. You can also uses dried or spilt peas, but these will need to be soaked first and the cooking times are much longer.

Boiling a ham hock and making pea soup
Pea and ham soup
scrumptious spanish chickpea and chorizo soup

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