As the days get colder I find myself craving hot, nourishing meals to fill my stomach and warm my soul. Humans have been eating soup in the form of ‘pottage’ for as long as we’ve had firelight. Archaeological records show that Anglo Saxons relied heavily on dried peas as a source of protein and carbohydrate all year round. So there is something deeply grounding about preparing this soup, like dipping into an ancestral recipe book.

While some split pea soups can be thick enough to stand a spoon in (hence the term ‘pea souper’ for the London smog experienced by the Victorians) this is a lighter broth packed with extra seasonal veg.


One ham hock

A brown onion

parsley stalks and veg peelings for stock

2 English onions

2 carrots

4 -5 stems of cavalo nero cabbage

2 dried bay leaves

150g yellow split peas

1 ½ tbsp. vegetable bouillon powder

A small bunch of fresh parsley


The night before making the soup; rinse the ham hock and place it in a pan with the onion, parsley stalks and leftover vegetable peelings. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for two hours or until the hock is cooked through. Take off the heat and leave the ham hock in the stock overnight to cool.

Peel the onions and roughly chop, along with the carrots. Fry them in a little oil until the onions are translucent and the carrots have softened.

Shred the cavolo nero and throw away any tough looking stalks. Finely chop the parsley.

Return to the ham. Strain the stock into a large jug and pull the meat from the bone.

Pour 750ml of the ham stock into your soup pan before adding the shredded cavalo nero, bay leaves, split peas and bouillon powder. Top up with another one and a half litres of hot water and bring to the boil. Simmer the soup for thirty minutes.

Stir some of the ham and the chopped parsley into the soup and simmer for another ten minutes - or until the ham is piping hot. I like to keep a portion of the meat for sandwiches later in the week, making this a really economical weekend meal.

Serve with crusty bread.

- Claire Davies is a York food writer with a passion for seasonal ingredients and historic recipes. Her blog, The Greedy Wordsmith, can be found online.