Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Oh Mama, there's no ham in the pea soup!

My mom always made her traditional French Canadian pea soup with a great meaty ham bone.  The meatier the better for that great smoky flavour.  The ingredients (and the quantities) in this recipe are totally flexible and a few are unconventional, for a French Canadian.  Here's how I played with the ingredients to satisfy my vegetarian taste buds:

Makes about 10 servings.


3     tablespoons of oil (safflower or grapeseed)
4     celery stalks, diced
2     onions, diced
3     carrots, medium, peeled and diced
1     cup, approx. cauliflower, diced
3     potatoes, diced
2     cups yellow split peas
1     cup green split peas
1/2  cup  barley
2     litres vegetable broth (or water, which I used)
2     tsp savory (or to taste)
2     tsp thyme (or to taste)
1     tsp marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until soft, add celery and carrots and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Begin with 1.5 litres (12 ups) of vegetable broth/water- add to the pot, along with the split peas.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  After 30 minutes, add the barley and the herbs, keep stirring to make sure the barley doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.  Begin with 1/2 the quantity of herbs- you can add more as you taste your soup while it simmers for an earthy undertone. When the peas and barley are almost cooked (the peas will be soft and the barley plump), after about 45 minutes from when you began, add the potatoes and cauliflower, salt and pepper.  Continue simmering and tasting for an additional 15 minutes.  If the soup thickens too much, add more broth/water to give it the consistency you prefer (I like my pea soup pretty thick and hearty), then adjust the flavouring.  Serve.

Your refrigerated leftovers may "gel".  If that happens, no worries, just add liquid when you reheat the soup.

Wanna play?
Change up the vegetables: to keep it a little more traditional remove the cauliflower; you can also add zucchini or sweet potatoes (with or instead of the white potatoes) or butternut squash during the simmering period or even add fresh tomatoes (skinned and seeded) at the end of the cooking period. Make it "crunchy" by adding more celery and/or carrots and/or cauliflower about five minutes before the soup is finished, so the vegetables remain "al dente". Garnish it with chopped parsley or finely chopped green onions.

Change up the peas: in the past, I've used only yellow split; I've added whole yellow or whole green peas in addition to the split; or lentils or quinoa for added protein.

Change up the flavours: you could use sage in addition to or instead of the herbs in this recipe; or, take it East and add curry powder (or garam masala/turmeric) for an Indian flavour.

And, if you must have meat, for your inner French Canadian, add a beautiful, meaty, smoky ham bone at the same time as the broth/water and simmer it gently along with the soup.  Or, even better, go to the best butcher in town and buy a smoked pork hock- wow! When the meat loosens from the bone, remove it from the soup, cut off and dice the meat.  Return the meat to the soup.  Enjoy!

For the freezer:
Once the soup has cooled, laddle approximately 3 cups of soup into medium freezer bags, label, remove the air, seal and place flat in your freezer.  Reheat the frozen soup slowly to prevent the peas and barley from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If it is too thick, add more broth/water and readjust your seasonings.


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