Apr 19th, 2006
I mentioned that I served ham (well a picnic shoulder, so a small fatty ham) for Easter. That meant that after all the salty meat was scarfed up I was left with a ham bone. I've never had a ham bone before! I could make soup!
I have never gotten over the wonder of throwing some meaty bones into a pot of water and watching them transform into something edible. While I was puttering around the kitchen last night I was struck with a memory from my childhood. Judging from where we were living I must have been fairly young, probably around eight years old. My brother and I had a play oven that my Dad had built - it was basically a yellow plywood box and it lived outside. We usually used it to bake worms. But I have a vivid memory of a summer day when we attempted to make soup. We had peas and carrots that we chopped up and added to some water. With some salt and pepper. That was our soup and I remember being so frustrated that I couldn't figure out what the magic, mysterious ingredient was that we were missing that would make it taste like soup.
Well, if I had been able to put my eight year old hands on a ham bone, my problems would have been solved. Because basically last night I took that water soup with peas and carrots and added a ham bone. (Okay and a lot of other vegetables but go with me here.) The addition of the ham bone took a few ingredients from a little girl's pretend soup, to an actual dish. I was right, there is a magic ingredient!
To make grownup pretend soup, simmer a ham bone in enough water to cover for about an hour. Then add (peeled and diced where appropriate) leeks, lima beans, parsnips, potato, and carrots. Cook for another 30 minutes or so then remove the bone. Add zucchini, savoy cabbage (and any other quick cooking vegetable you want), and some chopped up left over ham. When the ham bone cools you can pull the meat off that and add it to the pot as well. When everything is tender, add frozen peas, chopped basil, several squeezes of lemon, and lots of freshly ground pepper. And raise a glass to your eight year old self. Cooking really is magic!