Split pea and ham hock soup

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A classic split pea and ham hock soup

This is a classic recipe for a split pea and ham hock soup because why digress from something that is perfect. You can add a hit of mint at the end if you want to freshen it up a bit, but I really like it straight up with the ham and pea, an all-time classic flavour combination.

I wrote this recipe for Food & Home Entertaining July 2017 issue and had to do two tests. One for a slow cooker and one for a pressure cooker. It seemed like a lot of work at the time but I was so happy with all the leftovers to freeze off in batches. It’s one of the heartiest and most comforting winter soups you can make and I finished my stash within a month and can’t wait to do another batch before this winter is done. I made the stock from scratch because it makes sense to do that at the same time you are cooking the ham for the recipe.

The Ham hock or pork knuckle is a cheap cut of meat and I love that I used it twice in the recipe with nothing going to waste. The cut is big on bone and therefore big on flavour and the meat cooks to melting deliciousness which you shred off to add to the soup. I made the stock in a pressure cooker to save time and also because I wanted to test out my new gadget as many times as possible.  You can make an easier version using chicken stock and any other ham of your choice, and this is a good soup to use up leftover roast gammon in. 

I’ve been a fan of my slow cooker for over two years now but my pressure cooker is a new piece of equipment. I needed to overcome my initial fear and had visions of it exploding and taking my kitchen roof off (along with my face). Now that I’m comfortable with it, I literally don’t know how I managed before it arrived. It makes the best basmati rice in 4 minutes and I use it to cook my steel cut oats a whole lot quicker. Check out a few of my tips for buying and using a pressure cooker at the bottom of this post.

Dried split peas are loaded with fibre, which is the often neglected part of nutrition, so you know this soup is all good too. 

I made oven-baked croutons to go on the top. These are a necessity for me both to soak in the soup and to add a crunchy element to the dish. I simply cut up cubes from a good loaf of white bread, drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them in an oven that was heated to 180c / 350F for about 15 minutes (or so) and until golden on all sides. I gave the pan a shake a few times during the cooking process. 

You can make the ham hock stock before. Either on a stovetop or in a pressure cooker to speed it up.


  • 800gms – 1kg ham hock
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot
  • 4 – 5 cloves of garlic

Conventional cooking:

Pace all of the above in a large stockpot and simmer for 2 hours. Strain out all the solids and reserve all the liquid. Remove the ham hock and cut out all the cooked meat. Reserve this to add to the soup.

Pressure cooker:

Place all of the above in your pressure cooker with 2.5litres of water and cook for 1 hour and then use the slow (natural) pressure release method. Strain out all the solids and reserve all the liquid. Remove the ham hock and cut out all the cooked meat. Reserve to add to the soup

Split pea soup

  • 500gs dried split peas
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 carrot finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks finely diced
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1.5l of ham hock stock (use chicken or veg stock as an alternative)
  • Shredded ham from the ham hock (about 1.5 – 2 cups) * replace with 200gms of chopped up ham/gammon
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped mint (optional)

How to make split pea and ham hock soup in a slow cooker

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the carrot, celery and onion until softened about 5 minutes. Add the garlic for about a minute towards the end.

Add the sautéed vegetables, bay leaf, peas and stock to a slow cooker set on high and cook on high for 3 – 4 hours or low for 6 – 8 hours. Add the cooked ham about halfway through.

Add the chopped mint and salt and pepper to taste.

How to make split pea and ham hock soup in a pressure cooker

Split peas take ages to soften which is why the pressure cooker method is a really good way to speed up the process. The quick release of the pressure also breaks the peas down further so no blending is required.

To make the soup in the pressure cooker add all the ingredients including the ham and heat until the pressure in the cooker has reached pressure. Cook for a further 20 minutes and then release the pressure via the quick-release method.

Add the chopped mint (if you are adding), salt and pepper to taste.

A classic split pea and ham hock soup

A few tips to consider when buying and using a pressure cooker for the first time:

  1. Whether you are buying a stovetop of a free-standing pressure cooker, don’t get one smaller than a 6 litre capacity. It becomes impractical to cook very small quantities. My advice would be to go one size up from that for a general all-purpose appliance.
  2. If you have enough space to store a pressure cooker on a countertop, a free-standing one is easier to control the temperature and you will get more consistent results. There is no risk of overcooking or burning your food as everything is automated.
  3. A stovetop pressure cooker is also fantastic but just be careful to adjust the heat once the pressure has been achieved to avoid food burning, especially if you are cooking with gas. The pressure cooker requires high heat initially to reach pressure but can cook for the remaining time over low heat. You need to get the heat adjustment right. Start on high and end on low.
  4. Modern pressure cookers come with safety features so you will need to read the manufacturer’s instructions very carefully. This can be a little daunting at first but once you have figured out the basics, you will be using your pressure cooker all the time.
  5. Always add the minimum amount of liquid to a pressure cooker and the general rule of thumb is one cup (250ml). Check the instruction for the pressure cooker and your recipe to ensure that you don’t add too much or too little. Pressure cookers work with steam so in general, they require less cooking liquid than conventional cooking techniques.
  6. Never fill your pressure cooker over the maximum line on the appliance, which will be 2 /3 full. Also, don’t pack the food too tightly in the pressure cooker as this could cause the appliance to malfunction.
  7. Ensure that the food that you cook in a pressure cooker is pretty evenly sized, especially with meat. Cut the meat into similar sizes to get an even cooking result.
  8. If you have ingredients in your recipe that cook at different times, you can interrupt the cooking at whatever stage you need to. Use the quick-release method to stop the cooking process to add your ingredients that require less time to cook. Bring the pressure cooker back up to pressure and continue until done.
  9. You have two choices on how to release the pressure cooker so check the recipe instructions. It will either be via quick-release or fast-release method. Be very mindful when you are releasing the pressure quickly as a lot of steam escapes at speed and you could easily burn.
  10. Timing is very important in pressure cooking and a few minutes can overcook food. Read the recipe carefully.

You may also like these recipes:

6 delicious soup recipes for winter

My easy cheese and sweetcorn bread

Easy whole wheat bread

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