A fact consistent across the globe’s cuisines is that the most comforting dishes will look like chunder heaped in the bowl in front of you. These dishes are also often incredibly delicious and very budget-friendly, low-effort but not necessarily quick to cook.
All of this is particularly true of split pea soup. This version includes pork ribs, which isn’t really found in traditional British versions of pea and ham soup, but once I tried this Dutch pea soup I was smitten: the slow-simmered pork adds to the velvety depth. You can leave it out if you like; this recipe is very flexible so consider it to be a rough template and make it to your liking. Whatever you use, the method is very easy: a bit of chopping, then you layer everything into a pot fastened with a lid and let it quietly putter away for 3 hours.
This soup gives back the time you put into it. It makes the kitchen smell wonderful. It is deeply flavourful and filling, better than anything out of a can or tub, and stores very well in the fridge or freezer. You’ll have to plan it in advance, but it’ll be worth it. Consider, too, the possibility of getting some ham to boil – smoked hocks, gammon, bacon joint – so you get stock and meat to use in the soup. Leftover meat can go in sandwiches, extra stock can be frozen. Straightforward and thrifty cooking.
Makes 4 very generous servings as a main course, more like 6 as a starter or light meal. Store in the fridge for 2 – 3 days or in the freezer for 1 month.
- . 250g yellow or green split peas, rinsed (don’t bother soaking them)
- . 1 carrot, peeled and roughly diced
- . 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly diced
- . 1 medium potato, any kind, peeled and roughly diced
- . 1 stick celery, trimmed and roughly diced
- . Small handful celery leaves (optional)
- . 2 pork ribs, or 1 bone-in pork chop
- . 300g any kind of bacon or ham, raw or cooked, diced
- . 1 litre stock, preferably fresh ham stock, but water and cubes are fine.
- . Salt and pepper to taste
- . ½ teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg (optional but highly recommended)
- . Toppings to serve: a drizzle of cream, garlic oil, herbs, croutons, extra ham - whatever you like
- Layer half the split peas in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid (I used a 3.8 litre stockpot which was perfect). Pile all of the chopped carrot, onion, potato, celery, and celery leaves (if using) on top of the split peas.
- Layer the pork ribs (or chop) and the bacon or ham on top of the vegetables.
- Sprinkle over the remaining peas and pour over the stock. Crockpot-style layering like this prevents the meat from burning.
- Cover tightly and set the pan over a high heat to bring to the boil. Gradually turn the heat down to very low, and when it is quietly puttering away, leave it to simmer for 1 hour.
- Check on the soup: the peas should be swollen and just beginning to break apart. Cover and leave to cook for a further hour.
- Carefully remove the pork ribs from the pot, shred the meat from the bone, and return only the meat back to the soup. Top up with a little water if the soup is looking too solid. Cover and cook for a further hour. Discard the pork bones.
- After the final hour is up, taste the soup. It should be deeply savoury and velvety in texture. If it’s too salty and thick for your taste, loosen bit by bit with water until you like it. Season the soup with salt, pepper, and mace or nutmeg, going easy on the salt and tasting as you go along.
- If you want a very smooth soup, you can blend it, but if you like a bit more texture just use a potato masher to break up any obvious lumps.
- Serve right away, sprinkled, drizzled or dolloped with the toppings of your choice.