“People don’t realize how easy they have it these days. Most kids have never known what it’s like to go without anything. They want something, they get it. If there isn’t enough money, they charge it. We never wanted anything because we never realized we could have anything. We never missed what we never had. Things were much simpler back then, and we were stronger for it. We worked together to keep the house in order, to put food on the table. We kept things going.”Clara Cannucciari, Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression
Sometimes the most humble and simple things are often the best – like my Nana’s Split Pea and Ham Hock Soup. I made a big pot of this on Sunday, so we could have some for dinner, some for extra mid-week meals, and some to give to friends who are in isolation and need emotional support and a little home-cooked love. This is a thick soup with hearty flavours that will keep for five days in the fridge and that freezes well too.
I learned to make this soup before I even went to school, because Pa used to bring in a little wooden step so I could help Nana in the kitchen! When I was growing up Nana would make this soup by the vat every winter because it was a family favourite. Nana’s grandmother used to make this for her extended family during the depression (because she had adult children and their young families who had to move home with her after they lost their own homes), so she taught my Nan when she was a little girl – just like my Nana taught me.
As a poor student, struggling to make ends meet, this was a soup I made often in the cooler months to feed my share-house. This classic soup uses economical ingredients, and it sticks to your ribs (meaning it fills you up!). Served with toast, damper or crusty bread it’s all you could wish for as a satisfying and soul-warming bowl of nurture.
It’s what my Nana called an all-day-soup, meaning you needed to start it in the morning to have it ready for the dinner table. And of course, like most slow-cooked things, it tastes even better the day after it is made. I usually allow at least 5 hours to make this soup, and the longer you leave it the silkier and creamier it becomes.
This soup reminds me of my family tree every time I make it, and I feel their love across the generations. It also reminds me of all of the times I’ve been broke and needing to meet my commitments by scrimping and saving and making do. It brings great comfort to me on so many levels. I hope you find it to be suitable soul food too.
And if you don’t know your family history? Know that my Nana would always have found an extra bowl and spoon and a place for you at the table, and so would I. You’re always welcome at our table.
Love, soup and friendship, Nicole xx
- 1 large smoked ham hock
- 1 large onion cut into fine dice
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
- 2 potatoes cut into cubes
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 large celery ribs, diced
- 750g (about 3 cups) of dried green split peas
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 chicken stock cubes or equivalent stock to make 2 litres (or use a dessertspoon of Vegemite instead of stock powder)
- Place the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and butter in a very large pot over medium heat and sweat until fragrant and slightly softened.
- Add ham hock and pour the stock (or water and stock cubes/powder/vegemite) over and bring to a simmer.
- Cover pot so that lid is ajar and steam can escape. Simmer for two hours. then carefully remove the ham hock but leave the pan over the heat.
- Remove and discard the ham skin, bones and fat. Dice or shred the meat and return to the pot.
- Add the potatoes and split green peas and stir well. Cover again so lid is ajar and cook for a further two to three hours or until the peas have disintegrated and turned into a creamy thick liquid.
- Check occasionally during cooking – stir well and add a little extra water if necessary.
- Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings if necessary with pepper and salt.
Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread, toast or garlic bread.
For an extra garnish Nana often put a spoonful of cream or sour cream (yoghurt works well too) and some boiled green peas, mashed slightly, on top of each bowl of soup. The bright green colour always makes it look appealing. You could also use fresh parsley, chives or green onion too.
Here’s the soup in step-by-step pictures:
PS – Want Some Extra Nurture Today?
Our Colour and Cuppa online get-together is on today and the theme this week is ‘Angels’.
Many of us have felt touched by angels at some time in our lives, and I look forward to hearing about your experiences as we colour, chat and share.
The ‘Angels – Colour and Cuppa’ gathering will be at 4.00pm Brisbane time today Tuesday 9 June (which may be June 8 where you live). We hold these sessions every fortnight. To support people in other time zones we are scheduling these live events at various times throughout the year so you can find one that works for you.
It’s completely free to join us, and we’ll be holding this gathering via Zoom. All of the details and the link will be in our Facebook Group, The Journeymakers.
If you’re not already a member you can join here:
See you there!