This morning, right smack in the middle of February I discovered that our temperature dropped below zero. Only by one degree mind you, but it still counts. We have officially reached “soup weather” and soup we’ve had! You might wonder why I need a meteorological permission to eat soup and I am happy to explain. I grew up in a Russian household, where soup had to be consumed “to stay healthy” for every lunch as a first course, which is supposed to be followed by meat and potatoes of sorts and then tea with sweets and biscuits. Sounds like a big lunch. I completely agree. The tradition was not always compliant with real life though, where people worked and studied and didn’t have the luxury to enjoy a three course feast, so the majority of people I knew just had soup. I, on the other hand, hated it, except for this yellow split pea and ham soup, which is what this post is about.
Growing up this soup was a favourite with my brother and I to my mom’s bewilderment. After all split peas are traditionally thought to be a “poor man’s food”, cheap and plain. However, this split pea soup is as delicious as it is simple to make. I had to recall my mother’s recipe because I didn’t want to mess with perfection and when I did, I felt like the ingredient list was too short. Have I not remembered it right? How could a handful of ingredients produce rich flavour? Well I have and it did.
So what gives this soup its taste? Quality ingredients and longer cooking time. This recipe uses traditional Russian yellow split peas, unsmoked gammon steaks (uncooked ham) or pork, onions, a bit of garlic and carrots. It’s also made fragrant with dill and parsley. One hour of slow simmering infuses the broth with so much goodness that gives this split pea soup its distinct flavour. What else? It’s extremely filling and economical!
- 3 litres/ 3 quarts water
- 450 g/ 2 cups yellow dried split peas
- 450 g/1 lbs unsmoked gammon steaks or pork/beef fat trimmed
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Vegeta seasoning optional
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 carrots grated
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp of each dill and parsley chopped
- black pepper to taste
In a large pot add water, yellow dried split peas, unsmoked gammon steaks or pork/beef, a bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add salt and Vegeta seasoning and turn the heat down to allow the soup to simmer.
You will see a lot of foam forming at the top of the pot, remove with a slotted spoon and discard. Continue doing so until all foam is removed and the broth is clear.
Let the soup simmer for 50 minutes. While the soup is simmering chop the onion and grate the carrots, saute together over low heat in a pan with olive oil for 10 minutes until soft and fragrant. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute, then take off the heat.
By now your split peas should be soft and some may be partially falling apart. Remove your gammon steaks or pork/beef from the soup if using and shred it with two forks in a shallow bowl or cut it with a knife. Return to the pot and add the sautéed carrots and onions.
Add chopped herbs, black pepper, taste and adjust seasoning if needed.