Pea soup is one of my favorites. Hearty, healthy, and easy to make, it freezes well, so you can make a big batch. It takes less time than bean soups and there are no overnight soaks.
It's easy to adjust the recipe to your taste or menu. In particular, it can range from vegan to meaty.
There are two things I do that make it extra good. First: Include some frozen peas at the end. They add a fresh counterpoint and lots of color. Second is to use smoked meat and include bones and joints. Cook the meat low and slow, the way you would for a stew or braise, to extract all the gelatine and flavor. My favorites are ham hocks and smoked turkey.
Pea soup technology is straightforward: You need 6 cups of liquid for a pound of peas. And you don't even have to remember that — the recipe on the package will remind you.
- 1 pound (2 cups) of dried split peas
- Various vegetables (a couple of onions, a couple of stalks of celery, a couple-three-four carrots, some garlic)
- Whatever herbs strike your fancy (bay leaf, basil, thyme, marjoram, cumin)
- 2 -4 pounds of meat on the bone: ham hocks or smoked turkey are great
- 1-2 cups frozen peas
Dice all the vegetables and sauté them with a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large soup pot with heavy bottom. You're not looking to brown them so cook over medium heat just to soften. Remove the vegetables to a separate bowl.
Cut the meat off the bones and dice or shred the meat. Put the shredded meat into the bowl with the vegetables.
Toss the bones into the pot with 6 cups of water. You can substitute chicken stock for some of the water but full strength chicken stock will probably be too salty so keep it to 50%. Don't use salt yet (because you don't know how much salt the meat will contribute). Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour.
Add the vegetables, the dried peas, and the herbs. Bring to a boil again, stirring often, to keep anything from sticking. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for another hour or two. Stir every 5-10 minutes for the first 15 minutes, then just twice an hour.
If you don't stir it enough and soup sticks to the bottom and burns, don't panic and especially, don't stir! Pour it off into another pot, leaving the burned residue behind. Unless it really burned, it will be fine.
After an hour or so, fish out the bones and let them cool.
When the peas are fully broken down and the texture is soup-like, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Pick any meat that remains on the bones and add them to the pot along with the frozen peas. Simmer ten more minutes.
I freeze in zip top bags because they lie flat and take little room in the freezer.