This recipe for thick split pea and ham hock soup is a real winter warmer. It’s packed with tasty ham, carrot, celery, and potatoes, and of course lots of delicious split peas. A bowl of this yummy soup with a crusty bread roll is just what you need on a cold winter’s day!
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Homemade pea and ham soup
There’s something so comforting about coming home on a cold winter’s day to a hearty bowl of homemade pea and ham soup. This is the traditional pea and ham soup that I grew up on. The only difference is that I can cook the soup in my electric pressure cooker in about an hour, whereas back in the day you had to soak the peas overnight and then simmer soup and meat for the hours on end.
This is pea soup as it was meant to be made, using nothing but good wholesome ingredients, plus a little seasoning. In fact, if you discount the salt and pepper, you will need only 5 ingredients, and one of them is water. It doesn’t get easier than that.
The first main ingredient of course is ham hock or ham shank. This is the cut of pork from the bottom of the leg, just above the trotter. It has a lot of fatty skin which I leave on the meat until it has cooked, and then remove the soft skin and discard it.
The advantage of cooking the hock with the skin on is that there is a lot of gelatin under the skin which along with the split peas helps to thicken the soup. And it does add a ton of flavour to the soup.
The cooked ham hock (which is so tender it practically falls off the bone) is shredded and set aside for adding back to the soup once the vegetables have been cooked.
My local supermarket sells ham hocks for next to nothing. A 1-kilogram uncooked ham hock cost me £2.58 which is practically giving it away, especially when you think this recipe makes enough for 6 people. It’s the sort of ham hock I would buy if I were making Eisbein – which is a traditional German dish of roast ham hock with the crispiest crackling you have ever tasted.
The other main ingredient is split peas. These days you don’t need to soak the peas overnight. The packet of peas I use actually states that they need no soaking and 50 minutes of cooking time. Cooking the peas in the pressure cooker actually overcooks the peas, and they break down completely. But that’s absolutely fine – it provides the texture we are looking for.
Finally, you will need vegetables. I like to use carrots, celery and potatoes. When I’m cooking this pea and ham soup I always cook the meat and peas first, then remove the meat from the pressure cooker and cook the vegetables in the pea soup. This way the vegetables retain a bit of texture and don’t turn to mush.
I like to serve this soup with lots of crusty bread rolls to soak up all the goodness. If you want to be posh, you can add a swirl of cream on top of the soup. Unfortunately, the cream melted on top of the hot soup and messed up my pictures, so I won’t bother doing that again. However, if you do want to add another ingredient, there’s nothing stopping you from stirring half a cup of cream into the soup before serving it!
What you will need
- Pressure cooker – I use an electric pressure cooker similar to this one. However, you don’t have to use an electric one. Stove-top pressure cookers work just as well. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your own particular model.
- Sharp knife and chopping board – for preparing the vegetables.
Ingredients and substitutions
This recipe makes enough soup for 6 to 8 people, but it freezes very well. I always make the full quantity and freeze half for another meal.
If you want to make half the quantity, I would suggest halving the ingredients (except the meat, because you can’t really chop a ham hock in half). Follow the recipe until the meat has been shredded and then use half the meat for the soup, and use the other half of the meat in another recipe (such as this delicious chicken and ham pie).
- Ham hock – you will need a fresh ham hock roughly 1 kg (just over 2 pounds) in weight. There are 2 large bones in the hock so it’s not really as much meat as it seems. I prefer to use unsmoked ham. If you use smoked ham, be aware that it may have a higher salt content.
- Celery, carrots and potatoes – these are the vegetable you will need. They should be peeled and cut into about half-inch dice. It doesn’t matter if you use more or less than the stated quantity. You need 5 to 6 cups of vegetables in total.
- Split peas – these can be used straight from the packet – there’s no need to soak the first.
- Stock cube – I used 2 vegetable stock cubes, dissolved in 2 cups of boiling water, but you could use a chicken stock cube instead.
- Water – you will need at least 3 more cups of water. Depending on how thick the soup turns out, you may have to thin it down with extra water.
- Salt and black pepper – for seasoning.
- Single cream (not pictured and optional) – you may like to stir a half cup of single cream into the soup before serving.
- Some people like to add a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary to their soup. I haven’t included any herbs because I want the flavour of the peas and vegetables to shine through.
- You shouldn’t need any thickening agent with this soup. As the split peas break down they release enough starch to thicken the soup naturally.
What to do
Dissolve the chicken stock cubes in 2 cups of boiling water and pour it into the pressure cooker.
Add 3 more cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper (or to taste).
Add the ham hock and the split peas.
Give it a stir to distribute the peas.
Cook for 40 minutes on full power. This is the ‘Stew’ setting on my pressure cooker. Allow the pressure to release before opening.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your own model.
After 40 minutes you should be able to pierce the meat with a fork with no resistance. If the hock still feels tough, cook for a few minutes longer.
Remove the meat to a plate and allow it to cool until you can handle it.
Remove the soft skin and discard.
Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and set it aside.
While the meat is cooking, prepare the vegetables.
They should be cut into approximately half-inch pieces.
Add the vegetables to the peas and stock in the pressure cooker and cook on medium setting for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
This is the ‘Meat’ setting on my pressure cooker.
Release the pressure, open the pressure cooker and add the shredded ham, and stir in the cream (if using).
Check the consistency of the soup. If it is too thick, add extra water.
Allow the soup to heat until the meat has warmed through (I used the ‘Browning’ function).
Check for seasoning and add salt and black pepper to taste, then transfer the soup to a serving bowl.
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I like to serve this soup with a crusty bread roll. Why not make your own – these Portuguese rolls are particularly good with the soup.
This seeded Irish bread soaks up the soup really well and the seeds in the bread add additional texture. Plus it’s so easy to make, you can mix and bake it in the time it takes you to make the soup in the pressure cooker.
A tasty grilled cheese sandwich also makes a great accompaniment.
Yes, you certainly can.
Cook the peas and ham with a teaspoon of salt, and the stock and water on low for 5 to 6 hours until the meat is almost tender, then add the vegetables and cook for a further 2 hours on low until the vegetables are soft.
Remove the meat from the slow cooker, trim away the skin and then shred the meat and return to the slow cooker until hot.
Yes, you can do this too.
Place the ham into a saucepan with salt, water, prepared stock and the split peas. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and leave for 3 to 4 hours until the meat is tender.
Add the vegetables and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender. Keep checking, and stir occasionally. You may need to top up with extra water to allow for evaporation.
Remove the meat from the pan and discard the skin. Shred the meat and return it to the pan.
Split peas are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They are low in fat and high in fibre with high levels of folate, iron and potassium.
Allow the soup to come to room temperature then ladle it into suitable freezer containers and freeze for up to 6 months.
To use, allow it to defrost in the refrigerator and reheat it in a saucepan on the stove until piping hot.
This soup thickens on standing, so you may need to thin it down with a splash of water.
I would recommend eating the soup within 4 days.
Save for later
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If you enjoyed this pea and ham soup, you may like these other recipes too:
- Meatball soup with vegetables and tomatoes – a hearty soup with chunky vegetables and juicy meatballs in a tasty tomato-based broth.
- Beef vegetable soup – shin beef cooked to fork-tenderness, in a thick vegetable broth.
- Slow cooker Irish lamb stew with barley – chunky vegetables and tender lamb chunks in a rich stock enhanced with barley.
Thick split pea and ham hock soup
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 2 pounds / 1 kg fresh ham hock approximate weight
- 3 medium potatoes
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 large stalks celery
- 1½ cups / 300 grams dried split peas
- 2 vegetable or chicken stock cubes dissolved in 2 cups of boiling water
- 3 cups / 480 ml water plus additional if needed
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to your own taste)
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup / 120 ml single cream optional
- Dissolve the stock cubes in 2 cups of boiling water2 vegetable or chicken stock cubes
- Peel and dice the vegetables into approximately half-inch pieces. Put the into a bowl of cold water until you are ready to add them to the soup.3 medium potatoes, 2 medium carrots, 2 large stalks celery
Pea and ham hock soup
- Place the ham into a pressure cooker with the prepared stock and the water (5 cups liquid in total), and add the split peas. Add the salt and black pepper. Stir to distribute the peas.2 pounds / 1 kg fresh ham hock, 1½ cups / 300 grams dried split peas, 2 vegetable or chicken stock cubes, 3 cups / 480 ml water, 1 teaspoon salt (or to your own taste), ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Cook for 40 minutes on full power. This is the 'Stew' setting on my pressure cooker. Allow the pressure to release before opening.Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your own model.
- Remove the meat to a plate and allow it to cool until you can handle it.Remove the soft skin and discard.Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and set it aside.
- Add the prepared vegetables to the peas and stock in the pressure cooker and cook on medium setting for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.This is the 'Meat' setting on my pressure cooker.
- Release the pressure, open the pressure cooker and add the shredded ham, and stir in the cream (if using).½ cup / 120 ml single cream
- Check the consistency of the soup. If it is too thick, add extra water.
- Allow the soup to heat until the meat has warmed through (I used the 'Browning' function).
- Check for seasoning and add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Serve hot with crusty bread.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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