I’m a huge fan of pea soup on a chilly day. I make it slightly differently every time, but one thing I’ve learned is that a soup needs to be built up. When I was young, I would dump everything in the pot at once, turn up the heat and simmer, and wonder why it didn’t taste like it should. In this case, I started with the onions and gradually added ingredients until only the legumes, water and herbs remained to be added. I was happy with this particular version and thought I’d share it here.
1 spanish onion, diced
4 carrots, roughly chopped (size depends on how chunky you like your soup)
3 celery stalks, diced
4 medium red potatoes, roughly chopped
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 thick slices of ham, sliced into small cubes (again, your size preference)
1 lb dried green split peas
1/4 lb dried red lentils
10 to 12 cups of water (depending on how thick you like your soup)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp ground savory
salt and pepper
If you have time, brown the ham in the bottom of the soup pot in a little bit of olive oil, then remove to a bowl. Add a couple tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of your soup pot, and saute the onions, stirring occasionally, on medium-low heat until they are translucent and starting to carmelize. Add the carrots and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes minutes; add the potatoes and garlic (and the ham, if you didn’t brown it) and cook for another 5 minutes; add the celery and cook for another 5 minutes. During this process, stir occasionally because while a little browning on the bottom of the pan can add a nice flavor, you don’t want to go overboard and burn anything, which will ruin the soup. Stir in the ham.
Add the water, herbs and 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil, stir the pot and lower the heat to a very gentle simmer. Most likely you’ll want more salt, but it is better to add and taste for salt in increments and there is plenty of time ahead. I’ll cook this for a few hours, stirring every once in a while, until the legumes have completely disintegrated. Towards the end of the cooking process, I’ll add in some freshly ground pepper to taste.
This is marvelous served with some good bread, and maybe a garnish of fresh, chopped parsley on top.