pea and ham soup a la heston blumenthal

pea and ham soup - when i hear that i think of the owl and pussycat rhyme.

i got the recipe from Heston Blumenthal (well not him directly, rather his piece in the Times Online). it took a lot longer than one's average that i had to make the broth first. the recipe called for ham hock. as this was nowhere to be found at 7pm last night, and i am not convinced i could find it by that name this side of the ocean regardless, i substituted the hock with feet. i know, how revolting. still, it was just for the stock, not for the eating.

so the recipe was somewhat bastardized to accommodate my larder and shopping capabilities.

instead of pancetta, i used high quality fresh bacon (from our Saturday farmer's market).
instead of ham hock, i used 2 pig feet (gag). this meant no ham hock shavings to add to the soup - i used extra bacon rashers instead (and didn't get any complaints!).

the rest of the recipe i stuck to. in hindsight the proportions in the recipe were off - it says it was for 6 people but using the same amount of ingredients last night, it was more like a serving for 4 at the most.

i used way too much butter when sauteeing the shallots....i used closer to 100g and that left a super buttery flavour which was a bit sickly...but when i boiled the soup up before serving, most of the buttery fat rose to the top and i was able to save the soup by skimming it off. also i would have liked the soup to be a little less watery, so next time i will use less stock.

served with warm crusty rolls, it was a great supper for an autumnal evening.

Pea and ham soup by Heston Blumenthal

This is currently on the menu at The Hinds Head, my pub next to The Fat Duck. Although it is a warm and deeply satisfying dish, it has a fresh and vibrant character.

If it were possible to pick peas from the pod and cook them within a matter of hours, then I would insist that everyone used fresh peas, but the so-called fresh peas that are available to us in the supermarket are less fresh than the frozen variety. This is because the latter are frozen within minutes of being picked, preserving the intensity of the fresh flavour.

For the ham-hock stock
1 small onion, cut in half
1 large carrot, cut in half
1 celery stick, cut in half
1 large leek (white part only), cut in half
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bay leaf
4-6 sprigs of thyme
4 black peppercorns
1 ham hock
2 litres water

For the soup
50g butter
200g shallots, sliced
75g pancetta, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
500g frozen peas, defrosted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To finish
2 smoked bacon rashers, cut into 1cm dice
180g frozen peas
Combine all the ingredients for the stock in a large, heavy-based pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Skim any scum from the surface, reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 hours until the ham hock is cooked. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then strain the stock through a fine sieve, reserving the ham hock on one side.

For the soup, heat the butter in a large pan, add the sliced shallots, pancetta and garlic, then sweat for 10-15 minutes until the shallots are tender. Add the stock, bring to the boil and skim any scum from the top. Add the peas and return to the boil, then purée in a liquidiser. Pass through a fine sieve into a clean pan, bring back to the boil and correct the seasoning. If the soup is too thick, add a little water until the desired consistency is achieved.

Shortly before serving, fry the smoked bacon cubes in a hot pan until crisp. Flake the meat from the ham hock. Cook the frozen peas in boiling salted water until tender, then drain. Divide the peas and ham between 6 soup bowls, pour the soup on top, then scatter over the bacon and drizzle over a little of the bacon fat from the pan.