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Pea soup with crispy pigs' ears

11 September 2006
Pea soup with crispy pigs' ears

This is a simple dish and harks back to the traditional combination of pea and ham. The soup is well-flavoured; the crispy ears act as a kind of "crouton" element giving a crisp crunch to counterpoint the smooth soup. It is on the menu at St John at £3.80 a bowl. A glance at the ingredients confirms that even at this reasonable price it delivers a satisfactory margin.

Ingredients

(serves 12)

5kg dried split green peas (not marrowfat)
4 smoked ham hocks
1kg onions chopped
6 fresh pigs' ears

Method

Put the peas ham hocks and onions in a large pan and cover them well with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about two hours until the peas are a purée.

It is important to start with the right amount of water so that you end up with soup of the right consistency - neither so thick that it catches nor so runny that it becomes unappetising.

Unfortunately when it comes to judging this amount there is no substitute for experience hard-earned by trial and error. When the soup is done take out the ham hocks. At St John they tend to be used for staff meals. Adjust the seasoning.

While the soup is cooking clean and singe the pigs' ears and boil them in water. You can tell when the ears are done by testing them with a knife; they should cut smoothly and "un-crunchily". Slice them roughly - 25mm - then dry.

Deep-fry the ears until crispy. Stand back when you do this as the residual water in the ears means they will spit.

Reheat the soup and season the ears. Serve each bowl topped with crispy fried ears.

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