Dutch split pea soup-- its full Dutch name being Erwtensoep --is a slightly tricky little delicacy to make. It involves boiling split peas with various cuts of pork (namely a big piece of bone-in ham or pork shoulder), taking out the pork, putting in vegetables, possibly pureeing and then putting the meat back in again. Certainly worth it, but I've simplified the process a bit and was very, very happy with the results. Unfortunately, though, I've just ruined Snert out-of-a-can (quite decent as it is) for myself probably for life now.
Anyway, the biggest change I've made is substituting real peas for split peas. I've researched this quite intently and while dried split peas are by far the most popular way to make soup, there's really just a few simple pros and cons to each...and for me real peas seemed easiest.
The biggest advantage to dried split peas is texture. Apparently they don't have skins and are a bit more starchy, and so more easily cook down into the appealing consistency of the soup. However, split peas should be soaked for a few hours (not necessary, but helps) and give off a frothy 'scum' in the soup that needs to be skimmed off early on in the boiling process. I'm also uncertain as to their availability outside of Holland.
Canned/frozen peas are just a bit more speedy and I didn't see any scum that needed skimming. The biggest issue is their shells which don't break off or let the peas break down easily during cooking. There are a couple ways to combat this (which I'll discuss later), but mine tasted just fine lumpy, ugly shells and all.
[Prep: 20min / Cook: 1.5 - 2hrs]
- 2 1/2 cups / 500mL water
- 1/4 lb (125 grams) thick-cut bacon
- 1 pork chop [optional]
- 1/4 of a celeriac (celery root)
- 1 leek
- 1/2 white onion
- 2-3 carrots
- 2 small/medium white or yellow potatoes
- smoked country sausage (kielbasa, rookworst, etc)
- Briefly strain the peas and bring them to a boil in the water.
- Meanwhile, chop up the bacon and pork chop and throw it in with the peas.
- Chop up about 1/4 of a celery root. It'll be about a cup's worth once chopped. Slice the leek all the way down to the white base and slice half an onion. Add all to the soup.
- Let the soup cook for about an hour, stirring fairly frequently (about every 10 min). Crush the peas a bit with the spoon if you'd like.
- Slice the carrots, cube the potatoes and slice as much smoked sausage as you'd please. Add all to the pot and cook for about 30min - 1hr more, stirring every 10 min until the soup reaches your desired thickness/consistency.
- Ready to eat!
[Serves 2 for dinner or 2 twice as a side]
- All the ingredients-- including dried split peas if I had been interested --are quite easy for me to find this time of year in Holland but may or may not be difficult elsewhere. If you can't find a celery root, you can use celery shoots, the flavor just won't be as strong. Make an effort to look for the root, though. Not only is it awesomely big, but it smells lovely.
- Traditional split pea soup gets its great flavor from ham/pork with the bone in. Using bacon instead really helps with the flavor, but its worth trying with a bone. Since it's a winter soup, keep an eye out for the big family ham around the Holidays and instead of letting anyone throw the bone away, package it up and freeze it. Later you can throw it in this soup and just discard the bone when you're read to eat!
- As mentioned, the biggest issue with using real peas and not dried split peas is that they don't break down as well in the soup. It tastes just fine but maybe doesn't look as appealing (b/c green goo looks appealing to begin with...). If you really want your real pea soup smoother, you can try one of these methods
- Puree the peas in a blender/food processor either before you start, or after that first hour of cooking, before you add in the veggies & sausage (the meats, celeriac and leek will have cooked down quite a bit).
- OR you could pan-fry the peas and bacon first. Peas really squish down when you pan-fry them and it could actually cut down on your cooking time as well. Because the meat & pea flavors will have already melded, you can cut straight to the veggie & sausage hour after pan-frying.
- They say this soup tastes better after sitting overnight in the fridge. Apparently it thickens and the flavors meld more. I can't know for sure-- my entire batch seemed to miraculously disappear last night --but I'd believe the Dutch!