Our city was hit with a massive ice storm this past week with an astonishing amount of damage done to trees and power lines. My husband and I were lucky — we were without heat and light for only 24 hours. We gave shelter to my elderly mother and my daughter, whose power was out for seven days. The temperature has since plummeted and we are now in the grip of a deep freeze. In this kind of weather, you don't want to do finicky work in the kitchen, and you don't want something light and elegant. Bone-chilling temperatures call for thick soups and stews that simmer on the stove for hours, adding an aroma to the house that helps warms you up just from smelling it.
I thought I would forget about my new, fancy cookbooks and head straight to "The Joy of Cooking." I wanted straightforward, no-nonsense comfort soup. I had a huge ham bone left over from my Christmas party, so Split Pea Soup sounded like the perfect thing. The first day I served it with croutons, and when we had it for lunch the next day, I stirred in some leftover sauteed rapini and grated some Parmesan cheese on top, which turned out to be delicious. Make sure you add lots of black pepper.
I have made a vegetarian version of this by leaving out the ham hock and adding a bit of miso and using vegetable stock rather than water. Obviously, it's a bit of a different flavor, but it's still really good, and it certainly warms you up.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
Yield: 4 servings
- 8 cups cold water
- 1 small ham hock
- 1 lb split peas (about 2 cups)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 large celery stalk, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Croutons for garnish
- In a soup pot, combine water, ham hock and split peas. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.
- Stir in carrot, celery, onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer until the ham hock and the peas are tender, about 1 hour more.
- Remove the ham hock. Discard the bone, skin and fat. Slice the meat and return it to the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with croutons.