If you have chicken or vegetable stock to hand, use that, but plain boiling water will do fine. (And the world won't end if you add a good stock cube to your water. On the subject of which: I don't use stock cubes at all, but I am a great fan of Nomu's Fonds, which I use when I don't have time to make a stock. Have you tried these super-concentrated liquid stocks?
They have an excellent and natural taste, without a hint of the salty, dusty packet-taste of stock cubes. Though expensive, a bottle goes a long way.)
Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeezy Pea and Gammon Soup with a Cool Mint Topping
1 kg frozen baby peas
1.5 litres (6 cups) boiling water or stock
4 lean gammon steaks (about 400 g)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
the juice of a lemon
a large onion, finely chopped or grated
a clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cornflour
an extra squeeze of lemon juice
5 Tbsp (75 ml) cream
salt and white pepper
For the topping:
1 cup (250 ml) thick natural Greek yoghurt
2 tsp (10 ml) finely grated lemon zest
the juice of half a lemon
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) Tabasco sauce
a handful of fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
salt and white pepper
fruity olive oil
First make the topping. Put the yoghurt, lemon zest and juice, Tabasco sauce and mint into a bowl and stir well. Season with salt and a little white pepper. Refrigerate.
Put the frozen peas in a large bowl and pour half the boiling water or stock over them. Stir gently to break up any icy lumps and set aside.
Cut the gammon steaks into small cubes. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the gammon. Fry over a high flame, stirring often, until the cubes are nicely browned. Now add the juice of a lemon (stand back, as there will be spitting) and stir vigorously to loosen the brown sediment on the bottom of the pan. Cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove the gammon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan (you may need to add a little more olive oil) and fry gently for a few minutes, or until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.
Add the now-defrosted peas and water to the pot, along with the remaining boiling water or stock and a big pinch of salt. Bring rapidly to the boil and cook for a few minutes, or until the peas are tender but still bright green. Remove a soup-ladle full of peas, drain and set aside to use as a topping. Tip the soup into a liquidiser or food processor fitted with a metal blade, along with the tablespoon of cornflour, and whizz until smooth. (Or use a stick blender.)
Return the soup to the pot along with the gammon cubes (but set aside a few cubes to use as a topping). Reheat, using a spoon to skim off any foam on the surface. Simmer for four minutes; any longer and the soup will begin to lose its colour. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream and big squeeze of lemon juice. Don't reheat the soup at this point, as it may curdle. Season with more salt, if necessary, and a pinch of white pepper.
Serve piping hot, topped with a big blob of minty yoghurt, the reserved peas and gammon cubes, and a generous swirl of fruity olive oil.