The weather is getting frigid out there, which means that it is time for me to start making some nice hot hearty soups. Tops on my list is split pea soup. I have been making split pea since I started cooking for myself. Back in the 1980s when I was a vegan I bought a copy of Annemarie Colbin’s “Book of Whole Meals” and one of the first recipes I tried out was her split pea soup recipe. I didn’t really love it, but I did learn from her the proper ratio of peas (1 cup) to liquid (6 cups).
The most important thing other than the ratio of peas to liquid is the freshness of the peas. If your peas are stale, your soup is not going to come out right. Ideally, as the soup simmers, the peas should dissolve and impart their creamy rich flavor to the resulting broth. But I have had times when I used peas that were old, and after hours of simmering, all I had was a broth that was slightly green in color, with lots of hard pea nubs resting at the bottom of the pot. So choose your peas wisely, use what you buy quickly, and store the leftovers carefully.
Aside from the peas and water/stock, there is a lot of room for creativity. I like lots of vegetables, in big pieces, so I add carrots and potatoes and onions. A new one I added to this recipe was slices of parsnip – in texture and taste somewhere in between the carrot and potato.
Something new for me for this recipe was how I handled the base. Instead of just water, I made it half water and half chicken stock. And then, I added two hamhocks that were each chopped in half. I let that cook for about an hour.
Then I took the hamhocks out, cut all the meat off the bones, put the meat back in the pot and added the vegetables.
For seasoning, I just added salt, pepper, and two small bay leaves. I added a little more stock, to replace what was lost during the initial cooking process (maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup), and let that cook for about a half hour, until the vegetables were well-cooked – I test the potatoes, and if they are done, that means all the vegetables are probably done.
Nothing like a good bowl of this soup on a cold winter evening. And with the hamhock and chicken stock in the base, it is even richer, heartier than other split pea soups I’ve made. For vegans, you can easily use vegetable stock, or just water. For me, I think from now on, this is the way I’m going to make it.