Thursday, November 8, 2012

Split Pea Soup (with vegetarian variation)

My favorite thing about cooking ONE of my many favorite things about cooking is finding recipes that were invented to re-purpose leftovers. I´m not referring to post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches, although they are fabulous, I´m talking about the more resourceful peasant dishes. The stews simmered with vegetables about to spoil, quick breads baked to save overripe fruit, and custards whipped up to save dozens of egg yolks from being wasted are some of my favorite recipes because I´m so interested in the history behind them. For example, while eating my way through Portugal, I discovered the pastry of my dreams-el pastel de nata. To me, it tasted like creme brulee nestled in a bed of flaky puff pastry. Are you booking a plane ticket yet? I learned that these pastries were invented hundreds of years ago by nuns. The nuns used egg whites as starch for their clothes, so they had a regular abundance of egg yolk byproduct. For this reason, Porto, Portugal is famous for its egg yolk-based confections. I can never remember a single thing from history class, but if you put a food spin on a history lesson, I eat it up! (Ha) Why is that?

I paused halfway through my pastel de nata to snap a picture. Note the buttery, flaky exterior,the tender egg custard in the center, and the sweet, broiled sugar crust on top. Yes, that is the perfect pastry. I do not have a kitchen tested recipe for pastel de nata (give me time), but I do have a belly warming split pea soup recipe invented to reuse the ham bone!

Those of you who look forward to holiday hams, look forward to eating this soup for days after. Like all soups, the flavors are always better the day after it´s cooked, so I like to make this soup at night after a holiday meal and eat it the next few days. This soup can easily be made vegetarian if you skip the ham bone and add vegetable stock instead of water. Still satisfying and delicious!

This soup is simple to prepare and very inexpensive. Rinse and pick through the peas. Leave peas to soak in water while beginning the soup base.

Like all good soups, this one begins with a mirepoix (meer-pwah), equal parts celery, onion, and carrot. Roughly chop or large dice the vegetables. They will be pureed later, so uniformity is not important.

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and stir to coat the mirepoix. Sprinkle with salt to encourage the vegetables to release their water to start the cooking process! Cook for 5 minutes, until the onions start to appear translucent, then add garlic and cook for 3 more minutes.

Add water (or vegetable stock if making the vegetarian version), rinsed and soaked peas, bay leaf, and the beautiful ham bone (or not if making vegetarian). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow soup to simmer for 70-90 minutes, until the peas are tender. The longer it´s simmered, the thicker your soup will be.

Remove ham bone from stockpot. Add pepper, italian herb blend, and paprika.

Puree with an immersion blender or puree in batches in a blender. Be very careful, the soup will be hot! If the soup appears too thick, add a little water or vegetable stock and blend.

If meat remains on your ham bone, remove from the bone, chop, and add back into the soup. If you do not want meat in the soup, simply skip this step. That´s the beauty of split pea soup, you can make it just how you like it. Top with garlic parmesan croutons and serve hot. Enjoy!

Split Pea Soup

recipe by Sweet & Savory


1 lb. split peas, rinsed and soaked
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 bay leaf
2 quarts water or vegetable stock
1-1 1/2 lb. ham bone
1/2 tsp. italian herb blend
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper


Rinse and pick through peas. Leave to soak in water while beginning soup base.

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chopped onion, carrot, and celery and stir to coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and cook for 5 minutes, until onions become translucent. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes more. 

Add ham bone, water (or vegetable stock for vegetarian variation), peas, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Simmer for 70-90 minutes. The longer the soup is simmered, the thicker the end result.

Remove ham bone and add italian herb blend, paprika, and pepper. Blend with an immersion blender or puree in batches in a conventional blender. Remove meat from the ham bone, chop, and add to soup. Taste to adjust seasoning and add more water or stock if the soup is too thick for your taste. Serve hot.

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