Saturday, November 26, 2011

Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup

Every year I have to make split pea soup. On our birthday, we decided to go over to the local meat market and buy some nice steaks to have for birthday dinner.  To my joyful surprise, they had smoked ham hocks in the case too!  "I'll take the largest one please!"  And that's when split pea soup became our destiny...and I have to admit, I'm surprised by the short ingredient list.  I thought I forgot something, but it's all there.  I'm not sure where the sweet potato came from, I was looking at the veggies I had and just thought it might be a perfect addition.  It was.

Ham and Sweet Potato Split Pea Soup
What you'll need:
1 large ham hock
4 cups diced carrots divided
3 cups chopped celery divided (use heart and leaves if you can)
1/2 large onion chopped
8 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic
1 medium sweet potato diced and divided
1 bag dried peas
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

In a large soup pot, add chicken stock and ham hock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a slight boil and let cook for about 4 hours.  Meat should come off the bone in big chunks.  Don't worry about shredding it, it will continue to fall apart as you make the soup. (You may want to add a little more ham chucks.  We added a small pack of the packaged ham cubes.)

Once ham has fallen off bone, try and remove (if any) the bits of skin/fat that are attached to the meat.  Add garlic and pepper and half of each carrots, sweet potato, onion, and celery.  Allow to cook, still at a small boil, until soft (about 15 minutes).  Once vegies are soft, add the bag of dried peas. Reduce heat to medium low.  Stirring occasionally let peas cook for 30-45 minutes or until you can see that they are starting to absorb the liquid and break down.  Once peas start to mush, but you can still see some of their shape, add remaining vegetables.  The soup will be done when vegetables are soft and soup is thick.  The peas shouldn't be visible anymore.

If you wanted to make this quicker, you could skip the ham hock and just use the packaged ham chunks, but you would loose the awesome flavor that develops from boiling the ham bone.  Winter comfort food? Yes please! Enjoy!

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