I have a confession. I hate spring. At least, I hate spring in Toronto. Here we are, into April, positively dying for some warmth and sunshine but instead experience snow, rain and freezing winds. Meanwhile, citizens of Vancouver and New York are enjoying cherry blossoms while wearing light spring jackets, admiring retail windows full of short sleeves and strappy shoes that actually make sense for the time of year! Ok, it could be worse, at least it’s not quite as bad as Montreal in March! But I digress.
What our Toronto springs do allow is the ability to enjoy those hearty, wintery dishes just a little while longer before the barbecues are opened up for the season and gelato cravings begin to take hold. This Split Pea Soup is a classic—yellow peas and leeks, brightened with the brilliant addition of celery root. For me, to simmer split pea soup with anything other than a ham hock would be sacrilege. The meat on the bone and the smokey flavours a good ham hock imparts are worlds apart from a boneless ham you might pickup at a supermarket.
This recipe is based on one from Epicurious. I did make a few modifications to boost the flavours a bit, however. You’ll find my version below. Enjoy while dreaming of buds on trees, the smell of wet springtime earth and imagining the warm glow of sun on your face.
Split Pea Soup with Smokey Ham
Comforting soup flavoured with a smokey, salty ham hock, with celery root and carrots to brighten up the flavours.
- 2 cups dried yellow split peas picked over
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 leeks white & light green parts only, chopped coarsely
- 8 cups water
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 smoked ham hock
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 1/2 pound celery root approx half of an average sized celery root
- 4 large carrots
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 bunch fresh parsley finely chopped, for garnish
In a large bowl, soak peas overnight with enough cold water to cover by 2 inches, and drain.
In a 7 quart heavy pot heat olive oil over medium heat, and add leeks. Cover and sweat leeks for 5 minutes until translucent. Avoid browning, they should still be white.
Tie the thyme and rosemary sprigs together with kitchen twine.
Add the sprigs to the pot, together with water, stock, ham hock, bay leaves and salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, skimming the foam from the top of the pot as it cooks. Once the peas are tender, remove the ham hock and reserve on a plate. Discard herb bundle and bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, puree the peas until smooth.
Peel the celery root and cut into 1/4" dice. Add to pureed soup and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Peel and dice carrots into 1/4" dice, add to pot and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove meat from ham hock and discard skin and bones. Chop meat and add to soup. Give it a final taste check for salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with fresh parsley and some freshly ground pepper.