Ham bone soup
Photo: Soup by Wendy-Ann Alexander.

Ham Bone Soup recipe

Ham Bone Soup is a deeply cherished tradition in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly during the Christmas and Boxing Day festivities. It’s a warm, comforting, and flavourful dish that holds significant cultural meaning.

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Here’s a breakdown of the tradition:

Origins:

The exact origins of Ham Bone Soup in Trinidad and Tobago are unclear, but it likely traces back to Trinidad and Tobago’s colonial past. The use of ham bones for cooking was a common practice in European cuisine, and it’s believed that this tradition was adopted and adapted over time.

Significance:

Ham Bone Soup is a symbol of family togetherness and sharing. It’s typically made with leftover ham bones from Christmas dinner, and the process of cooking and sharing the soup brings families and communities closer together.

The soup is also considered a “poor man’s food”, as it uses inexpensive ingredients and stretches the leftover ham into a hearty and satisfying meal.

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Preparation and variations:

Each Trinidadian family has its unique recipe for Ham Bone Soup, passed down through generations. The basic ingredients typically include ham bones, split peas, vegetables like pumpkin and seasonings like thyme, bay leaves, and chadon beni.

Some families may add other ingredients like coconut milk, dumplings, or smoked meats to create their special variations.

Modern variations:

While Ham Bone Soup remains a traditional Christmas dish, it is enjoyed throughout the year by many people. The soup can be found on menus in local restaurants and is also a popular dish to cook at home for any occasion.

Overall, Ham Bone Soup is more than just a delicious dish in Trinidad and Tobago. It’s a cultural icon, a symbol of family and community, and a reminder of the island’s rich history and traditions.

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Ham Bone Soup recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 ham bone
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup split peas
  • 2 cobs corn (optional)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions:

  1. Place the ham bone in a large pot and cover it with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Add the split peas, corn, onion, garlic, celery, carrot, green pepper, red pepper, scotch bonnet pepper (if using), thyme, bay leaves, salt, and black pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the split peas are tender.
  3. Stir in the diced tomatoes and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.

Tips:

  • You can use a leftover ham bone or a smoked ham bone for this recipe.
  • If you don’t have a scotch bonnet pepper, you can substitute it with another hot pepper, such as a habanero or jalapeño pepper.
  • For a thicker soup, mash some of the split peas against the side of the pot before serving.
  • This soup can be served with rice or bread.

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Additional notes:

  • This recipe is a basic guide, and you can adjust the ingredients to your liking.
  • The soup will thicken as it sits. If it gets too thick, you can add more water or coconut milk.
  • This soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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