“Pease pudding hot,

Pease pudding cold,

Pease pudding in the pot

Nine days old”

English nursery rhyme circa: 1790

Pea and Ham soup has been served up under countless guises and has circled the globe almost continually since antiquity. The two principal storehouse ingredients, dried or split peas and cured ham, have for centuries provided winter sustenance at home, a foot soldier’s breakfast away or a sailor’s supper at sea. It seems the traditional ingredients for Pease Pottage/Pudding, turned to something thick and nourishing in the cold winter months, are virtually indestructible.

Difficult to imagine what the 18th century ‘porridge’ was like in taste, but one can only worryingly hazard a guess as to its longevity from the above rhyme. In its cooked form, it too seems to have been indestructible.

Erring on the side of homegrown loyalty as I often do, I am afraid there is no escaping the elegance of this simple Spanish version. Given that some early form of this soup was embedded in the culinary repertoire of the Roman armies, I have no idea under what conditions it surfaced in Spain. I have eaten it on many occasions, often after harvest time near vineyards from La Mancha to Navarra, where the soup uses either end of season peas or dried split peas from the previous year. Ham hocks are a customary addition.

This seasonal version of the dish, when summer offers fresh sweet-podded peas, is a triumph of deliciously simple home cooking.

Taken from Moro – The Cookbook (2001) Sam and Sam Cark – Sopa de Guisantes. Pea Soup with Jamón and Mint

Serves 4

4tbsp olive oil

½ medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot

2 bay leaves

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

150g jamón Serrano (cured ham), finely chopped

1 mall bunch of mint, roughly chopped

500g podded peas, fresh or frozen

1 litre chicken stock (if using fresh peas, add the pods to the stock)

Sea salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat, and the onion, and when it has turned golden add the carrot and bay leaves

Continue to fry for about 5 minutes turning occasionally, then add the garlic, two thirds of the jamón and half the mint

Give everything a good stir, fry for another minute or so, then add the peas

Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the stock

Simmer gently until the peas are tender, about 2-3 minutes

Remove from the heat

Ladle the peas and stock into a food processor or liquidizer, and process until smooth

Return to the pan, season with salt and pepper and add the remaining mint

Serve with the rest of the jamón on top and an extra drizzle of oil

Wine thoughts

A mix of salty and savoury flavours here, so time for a lean, pale sherry. Without question, Fino or a Manzanilla are my crisp, go-to wines for this dish. If you can’t run with such a dry style then do try the increasingly chic Palo Cortado, sitting somewhere between Amontillado and Oloroso and offering a rounder, richer style than the crisp finos. If it’s an unfortified wine you require then try the contemporary styles of blushing pink Rosados from the Navarra region.