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20.5.14

YELLOW SPLIT PEAS SOUP


I tend to extol the wonders of Hungarian cuisine, but yellow peas stew was not among the things I liked. Once in a while we were subjected to Nagymama’s yellow peas stew; the peas were in whole and always on the tough side. The flavour was bland and unimaginative. It was served with a chunk of bread for dinner. It bespoke of having no money for anything better. Consequently I never cooked yellow peas stew and hopefully never have to. On the other hand a split peas soup made with good homemade chicken stock and garnished with bacon bits is completely different.

Nagymama [my father's mother] in her domain
The fregoli overhead

Split peas are dried peas that have been mechanically split along a natural seam, so that they cook faster. You can buy either green or yellow split peas. Either color can be used to make split pea soup. I prefer yellow peas; they taste milder than the green, but both have a grainy texture and do not hold their shape. Split peas are great for soups; puree for a creamier texture. Split peas do not require soaking, but they do require rinsing. Split peas take 30 to 45 minutes to cook and in the pressure cooker only 10 minutes. 

Split pea soup is nice if cooked with a hambone, but often times you have to make a lot of it if using a hambone and the mild flavour of the split peas is generally overpowered by the ham. You have to wait with the salt until the very end, because the hambone will add considerable salt to the soup. 

Going through the cupboard I found a small pack of yellow split peas just enough to make soup for Jim. Give me fifteen I said and quickly defrosted a container of homemade chicken stock and took out my pressure cooker. Everything went into the pot except the bacon and indeed fifteen minutes later steaming hot split pea soup was on the table. The weekend was cold and rainy. The sun is out now, maybe we can get back to seasonal temperatures for the week… until next weekend anyway. 

2 cups split yellow peas 
1 onion, chopped 
1 garlic clove, diced 
1 bay leaf 
3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade 
salt and black pepper to taste 
6 slices of bacon, chopped 

• Rinse the split peas really well. 
• If you use a pressure cooker put everything into the pot [except the bacon] and process for 10 minutes. 
• If you are using a soup pot sauté the onions in 1 Tbsp of oil until transparent. 
• Add the bay leaf, chicken stock and the seasoning and slowly simmer for 40 minutes or until the split peas are tender. You may have to top it up with water or more stock. 
• While the soup cooks slow fry the chopped bacon and then set it aside. 
• Remove the bay leaf and blitz the soup with a handheld stick blender until smooth. 
• Taste it and add more seasoning if required. 
• Put the lid on and keep warm for a few minutes. 
• Serve the soup topped with bacon.

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