Back to Basics… Ham n Bean Soup

Pease porridge hot, Pease porridge cold

Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old

Some like it hot, some like it cold

Some like it in the pot, nine days old

Do any of you remember that little ditty?

… I used to shudder every time I heard it.

At first I thought it was because I couldn’t imagine having a pea porridge. Green peas floating in thick green oatmeal would come to mind, the taste undistinguishable. 

I love oatmeal porridge though… hot, with milk and loads of sugar. A few raisins, and plenty of nuts thrown in for good measure. I also love soup, even pea soup served hot with croutons and chopped up crispy bacon bits on top and just a tiny swirl of cream. But I am most definitely a hot soup person. Vichyssoise or cold Gazpachos don’t do for me what hot soups do.

So yeah… I would shudder at the thought of peas porridge, especially served cold, and most definitely nine days old. But someone did like it back in the day, liked it enough to write a little poem about it that lasted centuries because it was so unique. I wonder if any poems about ‘hot soup’ would have survived that long 😉

Speaking of peas, I really like the Black Eyed Peas, together and in their singular solo artist avatars as well, especially and Fergie with her particular brand of zany rambunctiousness. And then there’s the bean of the same name, the Black Eyed Pea, delicate tasting, versatile, as much at ease boiled and tossed up in a salad as they are curried, or served as an accompaniment along with some fried chicken. They have soul those little beans, rounding up a meal, making it complete and filling up the empty space in your belly. A tidy helping can bring comfort like nothing else can, and when you put this little pea or bean in a soup you know you’ve hit a homer. 

I like my soups rustic, wholesome, full of good stuff which is why I decided to post his recipe. I’ve used ham in this recipe and chicken stock, but you can eliminate both of them and use a vegetable stock instead if you want to keep it vegetarian. What makes this soup really full of flavour is the layered cooking technique. Adding a few ingredients at a time, and sautéing them or cooking them down to release their flavours, before adding in the next lot of ingredients. You can choose to add the stock a little at a time as well, but I have done so in two basic lots, which helps the elements of the soup come together.

I also used a lightly smoked ham for the soup instead of a more heavily smoked variety since I wanted the flavour of the ham coming through with just a wee hint of smokiness, and it really worked well.

 This is what you’ll need –

1 cup ham (cut the fat off the ham, chop it separately and reserve)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

1 tablespoon freshly milled black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1” stick of cinnamon

1/2” piece ginger (minced)

4 medium size cloves of garlic (minced)

2 green chillies (de-seeded and sliced)

3/4 cup chopped zucchini

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/3 cup chopped French beans

1 medium potato cubed

2 cups sprouted black eyed peas

3 large tomatoes (puréed)

1 small onion (minced)

Couple of mint leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 litres chicken stock

1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated) + extra

All that veggie goodness…

You’ll need to soak a little less than a cup of tiny black eyed peas (I used the smaller variety) in water for at least 4 – 6 hours. Then drain, wash well and place them in a covered dish to sprout. I let it sprout for well over 24 hours.

In a large pot, put in your EVOO and ham fat and fry it on low till the fat melts. Add in the ham and fry for 2 – 3 minutes. Then add in the chopped carrots, onion and black pepper, frying them on low for about 3 – 4 minutes.

Now add the cinnamon, paprika, parsley, oregano and cumin powder and toss lightly, before adding in the cubed potatoes. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, adding in the black eyed peas and the tomato purée. Allow it to simmer for an additional 3 -4 minutes before adding a litre of chicken stock (I used home-made chicken stock but you could use the packaged variety as well). Bring the soup the boil, then reduce the flame down to low and cook the soup covered for about 45 minutes.

Add in another litre of warm chicken stock at this stage and bring it up to a boil before adding in the chopped zucchini, French beans and salt. Reduce the flame down to low again, and cook the soup for another 45 minutes to an hour, till the peas are cooked through and all the flavours have amalgamated. Mash up some of the veggies with the back of a slotted spoon, or you could purée some of them if you like and add them back into the soup. I chose to use the back of the spoon method since I wanted to retain my veggies mostly whole.

Turn off the flame, add in some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano`and a few chopped mint leaves and mix well.

Serve the soup hot, garnished with some more Parmigiano-Reggiano… and if you like some more chopped up ham.

I’m a happy soul, I am! 🙂