As a kid, one of my favorite books was “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” For some reason I didn’t own a copy but a friend of mine did, and every time I would visit her house I would spend a good portion of time pouring over the pages. The illustrations were the best part — the one image I remember most vividly was where people dining in a roofless restaurant ran around catching hot dogs as they “rained” down from the sky.
Another part that has been stuck in my head since childhood was the rolling in of a split pea fog. I don’t recall ever eating split pea soup until much later in life — maybe even after high school or college — but I was always curious about it after reading that book. When I did finally try it (hesitantly I might add because the color is not so visually appealing) I was surprised at how tasty it was. Those little chunks of smokey salty ham with creamy pureed peas made for a wholly satisfying bowl of soup.
Ever since that initial tasting, I occasionally get a craving for split pea soup and it seems like I cook up a pot each winter around this time. It could be because post-Christmas is the only time I happen to have a ham bone laying around, or it could just be the fact that it is usually freezing cold outside and I get an urge for something warming.
Both of those things were true last weekend. Thankfully there is still no snow here in Portland, but the viciously cold wind is making my bike commute pure torture. Getting to sit down to a piping hot bowl of this goodness for lunch almost makes up for it. At the very least, its warmth helps thaw me out — from my head to my toes.
Warm-You-Up Split Pea Soup
- 2 carrots, cut in large chunks
- 2 onions, cut in large chunks
- 3-5 cloves of garlic smashed
- 3 cups of rinsed split peas
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water (may need more to thin soup out)
- 1 each ham bone or smoked pork shank
- Fresh herbs (I used sage, oregano and parsley stems)
- 2-3 bay leaves
- Salt, pepper and chili flake to taste…and any other seasonings you like
- 1 cup small diced ham (optional)
Method: Saute the onions, garlic and carrots until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the diced ham and bring to a simmer. Skim any scum that rises to the top. Let simmer until peas are tender, but not mushy, probably around an hour but maybe longer. Pick any meat off the bone and discard. Remove bay leaves and any woody herbs that are easily accessible.
Puree half the soup (or all if you prefer it totally smooth) and make sure to get all the big carrot chunks in there. Return the puree to the soup pot and add the diced ham. Simmer until you like the consistency — remember it will firm up considerably in the fridge and so you’ll most likely be adding water each time you heat it up.
Season with salt and pepper and additional chili flakes if desired.