October 23rd, 2012 by Dawn Becker
I thought I would post this recipe here on my highly neglected blog since a friend of mine requested it yesterday. This soup takes its inspiration from the Humble Pea & Ham Soup found in Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain cookbook. His recipe adds “a dozen fluffy little dumplings” but I prefer the Southern style dumplings that look more like noodles.
Where Jamie Oliver uses good-quality smoked ham or smoked ham steaks, I used an inexpensive smoked ham hock that you find shrink-wrapped in plastic in the deli case of most supermarkets. They were actually beside the smoked turkey legs, which I think would also work well, but are twice the price. Based on the size of the ham hock, I adjust my water accordingly so that there’s enough smoky hammy flavour in the final soup. If the ham hocks are small you may wish to buy two to make a larger portion. Ham hocks are surrounded by rind so I cook the soup until the rind breaks down, at least 1.5 hours. Rind makes some people squeamish. Their loss.
The trick with the dumplings is not to overwork them which seems to be the rule of thumb for simple dough recipes. Mix together wet ingredients, stir in dry ingredients and stop when the two are just combined. Knead a couple times. Roll them out on a floured surface as thin as you can (they get thicker when they cook in the soup). Roughly slice them into squares so they look unmistakably hand-made and make a small incision in the middle of the square so the centre cooks through. Drop them one by one in the pot of soup that’s boiling heartily (just like pasta) and allow them to boil for 15 to 20 minutes until tender. That’s pretty much it. Your soup will thicken slightly as the dumplings cook but that’s a good thing.
Ham Hock Soup with Southern Style Dumplings
1 smoked ham hock about 1.5 lbs
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped (celery leaves can be chopped and added to finished soup, if desired)
3 bay leaves, fresh if you have them
Cut the meat around the smoked ham hock into large chunks working around the bone and reserve. This will allow the smoky flavour to come out even more. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil on medium high heat and sauté the onions until opaque about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and sauté for another 5 minutes till softened. Add the bay leaves, ham hock bone and chunks of ham. Season with a couple grindings of pepper. Add 12 cups of water and bring the stock to a boil. Once boiled, cover and simmer for 1.5 hours or longer, until the rind and ham meat have softened. Taste and adjust for seasoning. You may not need to add any salt as the smoked ham hock may have been salty enough.
For the dumplings
1 egg, beaten
1/2 Tbsp butter, softened
2 to 4 Tbsp milk
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
Mix all of the wet ingredients together. Stir the flour and salt into the wet ingredients until just combined. Knead the dough 3 or 4 times until it forms a smooth ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Cut the dough into three portions and roll out each portion on a floured surface as thinly as possible. Slice the rolled dough into strips and then into 2 inch squares (or so). Make a small incision in the centre of each dumpling square so the centre cooks evenly.
To cook the dumplings, once the ham soup is done to your taste, turn up the heat until you have rolling boil. Add the dumplings one at a time into the soup. Stir as you go so they don’t stick. Boil the dumplings for 15 to 20 minutes until tender.
Optional: Add a cup of fresh or frozen green summer peas or a handful or two of baby spinach and allow soup to cook another minute until the peas warm through or the spinach is wilted, whichever you’re using.