Peasant food at it’s best, this velvety, thick-as-fog bowl of split pea soup was just the ticket to get me through this week’s 2-day ‘Nor’Easter-a-thon’. It’s amazing how these five humble ingredients come together to yield so much flavor and heartiness, but they do.
I know the typical method of cooking split pea soup usually involves ham bones and/or ham hocks, but I wanted something lighter so I opted for diced ham steak instead. I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed. I added both the peas and ham at the same time, so all the while the soup simmered it was absorbing delicious flavor from the ham, without all the fat of a ham hock. Ham steak is typically sold in the meat section of your grocery store, near the packaged chicken and pork products. It’s pre-cooked, just like deli ham, so just dice and throw in the pot!
Green split peas take about 2 hours to cook and they expand and absorb water as they go, so you’ll need to thin out the soup with more water as it’s simmering. I like all my soups on the chunkier side, so I cooked mine until the peas split and were falling apart, but not yet completely disintegrated.
If you want to fancy this up a little, add a garnish like crisp bacon bits, crunchy fried shallots, or homemade baked croutons. I chose to enjoy the simplicity of the soup itself, with just some toasted buttered crusty bread on the side. Whichever direction you take this, you’ll feel wholesome and warm inside when you’re done eating. This is one of those dishes you’ve got to make at least once a season.
A final note – go easy on the salt until your peas are tender enough to start tasting. Ham is naturally salty, and that flavors the soup as it cooks so you won’t need as much additional salt in the end.
split pea soup with ham
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
- 2 celery stalked, chopped
- 1 lb dried split peas
- 1 ham steak, diced
1. Sweat onion, carrot, celery and pinch of salt over medium-high heat until softened but not browned, about 5-6 minutes.
2. Add peas, ham and water to cover.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, checking to ensure you’re maintaining a gentle simmer, approximately 2-3 hours, until peas have split and broken down but a chunky texture still remains.
4. Remove 2 ladles full of peas only (no ham) to a food processor and process until smooth. Return puree to soup.
5. Taste and season with salt/pepper if needed.
Serve with crusty bread. Makes 4 main course portions.