Monday, September 19, 2011

Split Pea Soup

Though the autumnal equinox is still a few days away, it feels as though fall has arrived, with temperatures dropping to the 40s overnight, and the fall migration well underway. I love to cook soups all year ‘round (and D and K love soups), but of course the arrival of cool weather requires that I make soup. Tonight: Split pea soup with cornbread.

Here’s how I do it.

Normally I would start with a little olive oil, but I had several slices of cooked bacon that I wanted to use up, so I started with that. As my Dutch oven heated up, I chopped the bacon into small pieces and threw it in the pot. As the bacon warmed and released its bit of fat, I chopped up half of a very small cabbage and added that to the now-fragrant bacon (shown at left). Since the bacon didn’t have much fat in it, I added about ¼ cup of olive oil and turned the heat to medium. (So yes, K, I almost started with a little olive oil.)

While the cabbage browned – and yes, do let it brown slightly around the edges – I chopped a large onion, about 1.5 cups of carrots, and about a cup of celery and celery tops. Celery tops are very flavourful and do well in almost every vegetable soup; don’t ever throw them away!

I added the vegetables to the pot in batches, stirring and scraping between additions, to incorporate all the brown goodness forming on the bottom of the pan.

After about ten minutes, the vegetables were browning nicely as their sugars caramelized. While it’s perfectly acceptable to throw all the vegetables into a broth or stock and cook them that way, this slow browning process will create lovely deep flavors. It’s worth the twenty minutes of chopping and cooking.

If you haven’t done so already, pour a glass of wine for the cook. This was a lovely French Burgundy, very delicious.

Once the vegetables were nicely browned (though only partially cooked), I added some nice chicken stock. (You can also use vegetable stock or water.)

Now, one of the reasons that I had decided to make pea soup was that I had a fat, meaty ham bone in the freezer, the last remnant of a dinner party we’d had in June.

I added that to the pot now, where it would render its delicious salty meaty fatty goodness.

As the vegetables simmered with that wonderful ham bone, I picked over and rinsed a package of dried split peas:

and added them to the soup with a little extra water:

To season the soup, I added two or three bay leaves, several whole black peppercorns and whole cloves, a soupçon of crushed dried red pepper flakes, about a half-cup of chopped fresh parsley...

...and about a teaspoon and a half of dried thyme (no fresh on hand, alas)...

Then I covered the pot and left it to contemplate itself for an hour or so.

Before serving it, I took out the ham bone, saving and returning to the pot any bits of meat. Then I tasted the soup to check for seasonings, then added (as expected) plenty of salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

And it was good.

While the soup simmered, I made this cornbread:

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They are further organized as follows, with some overlap:


  1. Aargh!* I had to re-post -- I forgot to add an important instruction (remove the ham bone!) and I wanted to add the final photo.

    * Today (September 19) is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.


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