Split Pea Soup is a classic …a hearty soup for a cold winter day!
The smoky essence of a pork or ham hock brings this soup alive. Split Pea Soup can certainly be made without it; however, the full-flavour boost will be conspicuously absent.
Tips for making great Split Pea Soup:
- Some recipes suggest placing everything in the soup pot with the stock at the same time – ham, peas, vegetables, herbs – and then simmering until everything is soft and tender. This doesn’t work very well given that all of these ingredients need different cooking times to be at their best.
Start with simmering the ham/pork hock to extract the flavourful broth; then add the peas as they need need more cooking time than the mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery); the mirepoix, when gently sautéed prior to being added to the soup, will retain flavour and texture. Timing is everything.
- Add herbs at the end of cooking time for maximum freshness. Thyme is the flavourful herb of Split Pea Soup. No substitutions! I also like to add a bit of whole savoury, flat-leaf parsley, as well as a little intensity from smoked paprika.
- The simmering liquid is critical for dried legumes. Cooking legumes in a salty broth makes them tough. Ensure that you use the ‘unsalted’ type of broth, or just use water (and add a concentrated stock base at the end of cooking).
- Split peas come in yellow and green – either one (or a mixture of both) will work.
- Soups and stews made with legumes are generally complimented by an addition of an acidic ingredient at the end of cooking, harmonizing all the flavours. I’ve used sherry vinegar; however, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, white balsamic, or regular balsamic vinegar will also work. Even though this may sound like an inconsequential ingredient, it holds all the power!
- Consistency of Split Pea Soup is a personal thing. Some like it chunky with lots of peas and bits of carrots still intact; others prefer a very smooth puree. Your preference will determine which method you use for finishing the soup – a whisk, an immersion blender, or a food processor. I generally remove a cup or two of the unfinished soup, and then use an immersion blender on the rest, adding the unprocessed portion at the end. Colourful chunks of vegetables and a dotting of herbs provide an appetizing visual.
Split Pea Soup
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 2 hours
Number of Servings: 6
2 litres (8 cups) liquid (or more)– water or unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
1 small (450 g/1 pound) smoked pork/ham hock
1 ½ cups (375 mL / 375 g) dried green or yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons (30-45 mL) olive oil
1 large onion, fine dice
3-4 carrots, medium dice
2 stalks celery, fine dice
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ tablespoons (25 mL) chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried thyme
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried whole savoury
1 teaspoon (5 mL) smoked paprika
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt; freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (30 mL) sherry vinegar
Garnish: Fresh croutons and a sprinkle of paprika
- In a large stockpot, or Dutch oven, place the pork/ham hock with some (or all) of the stock or water. Bring to a gentle simmer, and continue to simmer for about 45 minutes.
- After the ham hock has been simmering for 45 minutes, add the split peas and the bay leaves to the soup pot. Add any remaining broth. Bring to a gentle simmer.
- Gently simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes, or until peas are almost soft and tender (skim off foam while cooking).
- Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and sauté onions until just translucent. Add carrots and celery and sauté an additional 8-10 minutes; add minced garlic; sauté 1 minute.
- When the split peas are almost tender, add the sautéed vegetables to the soup and continue to cook for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the split peas and the vegetables are soft.
- Remove the ham/pork hock and reserve. Remove the bay leaves (discard).
- Add thyme, savory, parsley, and smoked paprika to the soup. Heat through. If water was used as the simmering liquid, now is the time to add a few teaspoons of the stock base to flavour the soup.
- Remove a cup or two of the soup to prepare for pureeing.
- Using an immersion blender, a large whisk, a blender, or a food processor, ‘puree’ the mixture to your desired consistency. Return the non-pureed soup back into the pot.
- Add salt, pepper; adjust other seasonings, if necessary. Don’t forget to stir in the vinegar!
- Remove the meat from the ham hock and cut up into small pieces to be added to the soup just prior to serving.
- Garnish with fresh croutons, a sprinkle of smoked paprika or some fresh chopped parsley … and serve with thick slices of crusty bread.
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