Pea & Ham Soup

David and Amy brought a delicious glazed ham to our Christmas celebrations. When we finished it I froze the bone and today, in early March when the weather is much cooler, I’m using it in a good old-fashioned Pea and Ham soup. Growing up under the influence of my mother’s “war mentality” makes it hard for me to throw away anything which could be turned into a meal.

This soup will “warm the cockles of your heart”. Having typed that I thought “what a strange expression” and decided to look it up.

One site which explains such expressions says: Something that warms the cockles of one’s heart induces a glow of pleasure, sympathy, affection, or some such similar emotion. What gets warmed is the innermost part of one’s being. The Oxford Dictionary simply says it means to give one a comforting feeling of contentment. 

There are all sorts of theories as to the origins of this saying, the most popular being that the ventricles of the heart are shaped like cockles, a popular shellfish when I was growing up in England. We used to buy them doused with malt vinegar at seaside resorts on the south coast, such as Margate and Ramsgate. It took an hour to get there by train, but in summer we often went to the coast for two weeks and stayed in a bungalow or caravan in Leysdown or Seasalter.

As kids we thought a trip to the seaside was heaven. There was candy floss and pink and white striped sticks of candy which was called rock – an appropriate name as you just about broke your teeth eating it. And there were amusement parks, where you could scare yourself to death on the roller coaster or win a hideous pink teddy bear on the shooting range. The water was always freezing but we swam anyway and came home with sand stuck to everything. Happy days.

I was never very fond of cockles or whelks (sea snails) preferring the juicy pink shrimps also sold on the seafood stalls. An even smaller shellfish called a winkle had a tiny body which had to be removed from its shell with a pin – a tedious task, which is probably why I didn’t like them. My mother loved them. Sometimes we took some home and she ate them for tea, with brown bread and butter.

I am pleased that the “war mentality” gene has been passed on to our three offspring and their partners who also run households with my mother’s motto “waste not want not.”

Pea & Ham Soup1 cup yellow split peas
1 ham bone (see note below)
About 2 litres chicken stock, preferably home made
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 Tbs fresh
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh parsley, coriander or thyme

Wash peas and soak overnight or for several hours in cold water, then drain. Put peas and stock in large pan with ham bone and simmer 2 hrs with a lid. Add vegetables, herbs and simmer for half an hour. Remove ham bone and cut off any meat. Cut it into small pieces and put it back into the soup. Add more water if soup has become too thick and check seasoning. Reheat soup and serve topped with chopped fresh herbs and some crusty bread.

Serves 6-8

Note: if you don’t have a ham bone, most supermarkets sell ham hocks or meaty bacon bones which can be used instead.

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