Eric Akis: Use Easter’s leftover bounty in hearty ham and bean soup

Eric Akis

When I bake a big, beautiful ham for occasions such as Easter, my taste buds are very happy for two reasons. I know it will be splendid and hard to stop eating it when I slice and serve it for dinner with such things as creamy scalloped potatoes and steamed broccoli. I also know that I’ll be able to use the leftover ham from that meal in other tasty ways.

With regard to the latter, beyond frying up and serving some of that ham with eggs for breakfast, or making a marvellous sandwich with it for lunch, I’ll also make sure I keep some to simmer in a pot of soup.

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Most often it will be pea soup, which always tastes better with a bit of chopped ham in it. But in today’s recipe, I decided to dice and add that ham to a soup that featured a different pulse: black-eye peas.

They are called black-eyed peas because of the prominent black spot you’ll find on them. Like split peas, they pair well with the flavour of smoky ham and a range other tastes, which in my recipe includes a mix of vegetables and herbs.

It’s a hearty soup that will make a satisfying and sustaining meal, especially if you serve it with my recipe for drop biscuits. These tender biscuits have more of a home-style, ragged look. That’s because they are not rolled and cut into perfectly shaped biscuits. The dough is simply measured into portions, dropped on a sheet pan and baked.

To bolster their already fine flavour, I mixed some tangy cheddar cheese and green onions into the biscuit dough. Spread these biscuits with a bit of butter and serve them with the soup and you’ll be happy.

Ham and Vegetable Soup With Black-eyed Peas

This hearty soup provides a good way to use up leftover ham you might have from Easter dinner. Make a fine and filling lunch or dinner by serving the soup with drop biscuits (see recipe below). Any leftover soup could be frozen for another time.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: about 30 minutes

Makes: six servings

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup diced onion (see Note)

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced carrot

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp ground sage

• pinch red pepper flakes

5 cups chicken stock

2 cups diced ham

1 (14 oz./ 398 mL) can black-eyed peas, drained well

1 (14 oz./ 398 mL) can diced tomatoes

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• chopped fresh parsley or thinly sliced green onion, to taste

Place oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and bell pepper and cook until softened, about five minutes. Mix in the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, sage and pepper flakes and cook two minutes more. Now add the stock, ham, black-eyed peas and diced tomatoes to the pot.

Bring the soup to a simmer, and simmer 20 minutes. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with parsley (or sliced green onion) and serve.

Note: In this recipe, diced means to cut into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch cubes.

Cheddar Green Onion Drop Biscuits

These tender biscuits are called drop biscuits, because after mixing the dough, you simply drop 1/3-cup amounts of it right on the baking sheet, no rolling required.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 16 to 18 minutes

Makes: nine biscuits

1/3 cup butter

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

50 grams cheddar cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

2 green onions, very thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

• vegetable oil spray

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a small pot set over medium heat or in a bowl in the microwave. Let butter cool until needed below.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk well to combine. Now use a spoon to mix in the cheese and green onion.

Measure buttermilk in a glass measuring cup, and then mix in the melted butter.

Add these wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix with spatula until fairly wet dough is created.

Coat a round, 1/3-cup measuring cup with oil spray. Now measure and set 1/3 cup, about 1 1/2 inch tall, amounts of the dough on the baking sheet, spacing each biscuit about two inches apart. Bake biscuits 16 to 18 minutes, until puffed and golden. Serve the biscuits warm or at room temperature.

Ready your clippers: Nettlefest is almost here

Galiano Island’s 11th annual Nettlefest occurs next weekend, April 6 to 8. It’s an awesome opportunity to learn all about that green, wild and very edible plant called a stinging nettle, which organizers describe as having a flavour somewhere between spinach, cabbage and broccoli, with a hint of pepper.

This weekend of foraging and feasting includes several daytime and evening events taking place in and around the Galiano Island South Community Hall, 141 Sturdies Bay Rd. Those events include a nettle cooking class, forest foraging walk, community nettle harvesting, Galiano’s next top nettle cooking competition, and a community potluck celebration. To learn more about and to register for those events go to

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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