I do love this time of the year when green peas are at their best and can be enjoyed simply popped straight from the pod.
When I think of peas, it's hard to go past that classic dish of Pea and Ham soup but as usual I've given it a little twist.
It begins with a smoked pork hock
which will serve two uses - the first to create a smoky broth for the soup and secondly, the meat will be shredded from the bone and used as part of a fresh pea and leek garnish.
While it's usual to use split green peas in the soup, I find that they can be a bit stodgy so I've decided to make it purely from peas.
With its vibrant green colour, you could call this a prequel to spring.
For the stock:
1 smoked ham hock
1 small onion, peeled
1 stalk celery
For the soup:
1 leek, green part, diced
250 grams fresh peas
sea salt and white pepper
For the garnish:
1 leek, white part, diced
1 cup fresh peas
reserved meat from the ham hock
Make the stock:
Place the onion, celery stalk, carrot and ham hock in a pot and pour in enough water to just cover them. Simmer on a low heat until the hock falls apart - depending on the size of the hock it can take a couple of hours.
Remove the hock from the stock and pick out the meat - discard the skin and bones and reserve the picked meat for later.
If you make the stock in advance and let it cool, any fat will solidy on the top making it easy to discard.
Make the soup:
Place a pot over a gentle heat, add a knob of butter and when melted, tip in the diced leeks. Cook until softened but not coloured then add the peas and just enough hot stock to cover the peas. Simmer until the peas have softened.
Strain the soup, reserving the liquid - place the solids into a blender along with a little of the liquid and blend until smooth - you will need to add more liquid so it achieves the right consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.
Make the garnish:
Add a knob of butter to a skillet placed over a medium heat - when the butter has melted, add the leeks and turn down the heat. Cook until softened and then add the peas and reserved hock meat and a scant spoonful of stock. Cook until the meat has warmed through and the peas have just started to softened but still carry a little bite. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
Asssemble the soup:
Return the blended soup to a clean pot and place over a gentle heat - bring it back up to temperature before serving. Pour the soup into bowls and place a generous spoonful of garnish in the center.