When you saw me post the recipe for ham last week, I’ll bet you knew this post was coming. 😉 Because I am usually just cooking for myself and The Artist, I rarely have the luxury of buying a large ham. But this year I told him I needed one. That’s right, it was more than a desire, it was a true need. Just like I needed that pair of shoes or the new platter for photography … sometimes a girl just needs something. LOL
The challenge was that The Artist doesn’t like split pea soup. As a matter of fact he told me he hated it. Hmmm, how am I going to make something that I love and that will be good enough to change his mind?
Being an artist, I knew a big part of dislike stemmed from the color. He hated to green color. No problem, I bought yellow split peas! Have you seen yellow split peas? They really are lovely, a slightly milder flavor than the green ones, a touch sweeter, and packed with protein. One problem solved.
By the way, on packages of dried beans, peas, or legumes there is a warning to pick through them and discard any small pebbles or stones. This is not a casual notice that you can skip over. And just to prove that to you, here is an photo I took of the rock pieces I found in my bag of split peas. The easiest way to do this is to spread them out on a baking sheet and move them around, uncovering any hidden “treasures” or debris. It is worth the time because you would hate to have someone break a tooth!
The second issue was all the bowls of split pea soup The Artist had in the past were dull and boring. Well that’s not an issue for me – I love using seasonings. A pinch here, a dash there, that’s what cooking is all about. Adding turmeric boosts the health benefits and makes the golden color even more intense. This time I kept it fairly simple, but next time I think I will spark it up with some Moroccan or African spices like cumin, coriander, za’atar, cardamom, ras el Hanout, dukkah, etc. Add a splash of fresh lemon juice for brightness and you’ve got an entirely different soup.
And the final trick was to use a real ham bone – not just throwing a few pieces of ham or bacon in the pot. Adding the bone rounds out the flavors, adds a boost of fat for mouthfeel, and of course it adds a smoky goodness. Full, rich flavors enhancing every spoonful. There is no messing around when you have a ham bone in the soup pot!
Some people like their split pea soup really thick, more like a stew. And others prefer it looser with more broth. It is all up to you and what you like. Add more broth or water to thin it down if it gets too thick – which will happen as it sits and cools. I think the flavor is better the second day after reheating, but you judge for yourself.
I like to add little chunks of the leftover ham to the soup. It boosts the flavor and adds a nice textural contrast. Also, sprinkling the top of the bowl with a little chopped green onion and a little more of the harissa or some paprika will make it pop. Even grinding some pepper over the top will make it look more appealing. We eat with our eyes before we taste our food, so make it as pretty as you can. Your family and guests will feel extra special because you took the time (less than a minute) to make their servings look like a restaurant meal.
After you’ve finished with your Easter ham and you are wondering what to do with the bone, this is the recipe for you. Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you are like The Artist and his father, you will love it and be happy to eat bowl after bowl of it!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you don’t have time to make soup with the leftover bone right away, go ahead and freeze it. You can use it later, just toss it in frozen and cook like normal. It will take a little longer to extract the flavor, but not a lot. If you don’t have a ham bone, I have had really good results using smoked ham hocks (ask your butcher). They are very inexpensive and a great way to get good flavor without having to buy an entire ham.
This soup is naturally gluten-free, but make sure that the ham you started with is gluten-free. Sometimes there are additions to the liquids that are injected into hams to keep them moist. All the seasonings should be fine, but if there is any doubt, contact the manufacturer.
- 2-1/2 cups (about 1 lb) dried split peas, either green or yellow
- 1 large ham bone or 2 ham hocks
- 4 cups chicken stock (gluten-free if needed) or use all water
- 4 cups water
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 3 large carrots, trimmed and finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped, stem and seeds discarded, optional
- 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp harissa seasoning, optional
- 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 cups additional water or chicken stock, as needed
- 1 to 2 cups chopped ham, optional
- In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, place the split peas, ham bone, stock and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and keep the liquid at a low simmer. Stir in the vegetables, thyme, turmeric, harissa, salt, and pepper.
- Place a lid on the stockpot, slightly offset so it will contain most of the steam. Cook until the vegetables are completely tender, about an hour. Using tongs and a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the ham bone to a plate.
- Use an immersion blender* to puree the soup until smooth. If you want, you can leave some of the soup unblended for a slightly chunkier consistency.
- Remove any ham from the bone, chop the meat finely and add back to the soup. Discard the bone. The soup will thicken as it sits. If you want a thinner consistency, stir in the extra water or stock. Add the chopped ham if desired. Taste and add additional seasonings as desired. Ladle into warmed bowls, sprinkle the top with some garnishes, a shake of paprika or more harissa and serve hot.
- Yield: about 6 to 8 servings
- * If you prefer you can use a blender, working in smaller batches. When pureeing hot liquids in a blender, never fill the blender’s container more than half full because hot liquids expand dramatically when blended. Leave the lid slightly ajar to let steam escape, and cover the lid and top of the blender with a kitchen towel. Hold the lid in place, slightly ajar (the towel will protect you from any splashing hot liquid) and pulse the mixture until it is fairly smooth and then turn on high to puree until completely smooth and silky. Pour the pureed soup into a large heatproof bowl and continue pureeing until the entire pot of soup is smooth.
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