Peas are an ancient food, eaten seasonally during the Paleolithic era. They were also one of the first cultivated plants, first grown in Western Asia about 8,000 years ago, and spreading to nearly every major culture from there. Today, there are many reasons to enjoy peas. They are very economical, and frozen sweet peas are one of the cleanest vegetables even when raised conventionally. They’re also very practical, since grabbing a handful of frozen peas from the freezer couldn’t be simpler. This soup is a great example of how convenient the little green guys are; start to finish, you can be enjoying this delicious and deeply flavorful meal in 25 minutes.
The word pea has an interesting origin; it was originally written as pease in English (taken from the ancient Greek pisum), which referred to both the singular and plural forms of peas. People confused the word pease with peas, incorrectly thinking it was plural, and later formed the singular word pea, which eventually became the norm around the 1650s. Pease still exists in some contexts, such as in pease pudding, or the children’s song “Pease Porridge Hot”.
Referring to thick fog as “pea soup” has been around for about 200 years, first used to describe the fog in London.
There is some controversy as to whether peas are “Paleo” since they are legumes. Like green beans, peas are the result of cultivation, and were selectively bred to reduce their toxicity, to the point where they can be eaten (and enjoyed) in their raw state. Theoretically legumes should be avoided, but I’m not one to follow food rules based solely on theory (see: my support of one of those pesky “grain” things, white rice). Personally, until the science definitively proves otherwise, my personal take is that they’re fine. Obviously, if you react poorly to them (or any other food, for that matter), you may want to rethink this approach.
Ham and Pea Soup
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups ham stock (or 2 cups each chicken and beef stocks)
~24oz frozen sweet peas (depending on how thick you like your soup)
1 lb ham (I used US Wellness Meats Canadian Bacon ends), coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)
1. In a saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of the butter over medium heat for a minute, then add the onion and carrot. Sauté until softened, about 6 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the white wine and reduce until the wine is almost evaporated, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in the ham stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 4 minutes to allow the flavors to marry, then add in the peas. Return to a simmer and continue to cook until the peas are tender but before they turn dark green, about 7 minutes.
3. As the peas cook, brown your ham a little. Melt the remaining 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add the ham. Sauté until browned and crispy, turning every couple of minutes, about 6 minutes altogether. Remove from heat.
4. Once the peas are soft, transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Alternatively, use an immersion blender if you have one.
5. Finally, return the soup to the saucepan and add all but a small handful of the ham; add salt and pepper to taste. The amount of salt you add will depend on on the saltiness of your broth and the ham. Once the soup tastes delicious, divide the soup into bowls and top with the remaining ham pieces, then serve.
** If you don’t have ham broth/stock on you, never fear: a combination of chicken and beef broths works surprisingly well.
** Some people like to add other dynamics to their soup right before serving, like a drizzle of olive oil, chopped chives, or a bit of cream. All of those are great additions if you’re up for it.