Last Sunday, I woke up with a lentil in my bed. I had made garlicky lentils the night before and a dry one must have hitched a ride in my shirt or something and turned up in bed the next morning. It reminded me of the Princess and the Pea, which made me think of pea soup and how no one cooks split peas anymore. Granted peas are not the hippest, most romantic of foods, but you have to admit there’s nothing like a bowl of good pea soup—creamy and thick with slivers of parmesan crisps on top. (The specialty of the The Crepery, a restaurant in Cincinnati, that closed years ago.)
On a chilly October day, with ham hocks in the freezer, pea soup was perfect. I decided on a recipe from Ken Haedrich’s Soup Makes the Meal, cookbook published in 2001. His recipe uses barbecue sauce in lieu of a ham bone, which I found intriguing. But a hambone was one of the only reasons to make split pea soup in my opinion. So I used both. The barbecue sauce provided a sweet note—the same thing that sherry or malt vinegar might do. I baked naan bread cut into strips, tossed with olive oil and Parmesan cheese as a stand in for the crepe crisps. It was perfect—fit for a princess or prince.
Split Pea and Ham Soup
I’ve had an immersion blender for a while and admittedly don’t use it much. But it was perfect for this soup, and really is amazing. No messy transporting to the food processor in batches to puree. Just put the blender in the soup and whirl around until the consistency you like. Just make sure your pan or Dutch Oven is big enough. It’s perfect for kids to use.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 cups water
1 pound green split peas
1 ham bone or ham hocks
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
¼ cup barbecue sauce or sherry
1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Saute 5 minutes. Add split peas, water and ham bone. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add the potatoes, simmer another 30 minutes. Remove meat from ham bone or hocks; add back to soup. Discard bone. With an immersion blender, puree soup until creamy. Add barbecue sauce. Serve with parmesan pita crisps.
3 pieces naan or pita bread, cut into strips
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
1/4 cup grated or finely grated parmesan cheese
1. Toss bread, oil and cheese together. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until crispy and golden.