My New Year's holiday was spent at the home of my dear friend Cathy. We all had a great time ushering in 2011! Cathy lives on the grounds of what used to be a farm, in an area of Pennsylvania that is semi-rural. It was wonderful to get away from the city for a little while. I went for walks on the nature path near Cathy's home, where I enjoyed breathing in the cold, crisp, clear air. I enjoyed too all the natural, icy, winter loveliness: looking at the sinuous denuded tree branches, poking the frozen earth with my walking stick, staring at the empty gazebo by the side of a pond. Inside the house we did the usual holiday things: cook, eat, drink, talk, laugh. Cathy had planned to teach me how to make her split pea soup. For many years now, I have raved about it. The broth is is to die for. It's seasoned with a ham bone which gives it a wonderful smoky flavor and it's full of delicious root vegetables. As if that is not enough, the soup is topped off with dumplings, which are one of my favorite things to eat. So, on New Year's Day, after the rose parade was over and with wine glass in hand, we sauntered over to the stove, Cathy the chef, I the sous-chef, and we started to cook some soup. Here's how to make Cathy's delicious yellow split pea soup:
- 1& 3/4 cup dried yellow split peas (if you want a thicker soup use 2 cups)
- 1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
- freshly ground black pepper
- a ham bone with a nice amount of meat left on
- 1 nice size turnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 or 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3 potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1 inch pieces
- optional: some vegetable broth
For the dumplings:
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- about 1/4 cup of water
The best time to make this soup is when you have a ham bone left over after having cooked a baked ham. You will need a ham bone with a substantial amount of meat still attached to it so that you can have lots of chunks of ham in the soup. In the picture below you can see the ham bone we used.
Go ahead and place the ham bone in a large stock pot, add the onion slices, throw in the yellow peas, then pour enough water in the pot to cover the ham. If you have some vegetable broth you can use that as a substitute for all or part of the water. Season with the black pepper, cover the pot and place it on the stove over medium high heat. Allow the water to come to a boil. You may want to skim off the froth that develops as the water is boiling. (Rapid boiling and the starch created from the breakdown of the peas is the reason for the appearance of froth. The froth is mostly water bubbles that have become heavy from starch and gelatin and don't break up as they usually do). Once the water comes to the boil go ahead and turn the heat down, then simmer your ingredients for two hours.
While the soup is simmering give the ingredients a stir every fifteen minutes or so. In the picture above you see how the liquid begins to thicken from the breakdown of the onions and peas. Once the two hours are up, remove the bone from the pot and place it on a plate. Carefully, so that you don't burn yourself, remove the meat from the bone. Throw the meat back into the pot and discard the bone.
I took off the meat from the bone and then I was fascinated to look at the broken up tendons and the spongy part of the joint. Those holes must be where the blood vessels where situated. The ridges on the bone were created by the machine that gave the ham its spiral cut. I felt bad for the piggy, I really did. I am a horrible carnivore.
With the aid of a tablespoon drop the batter into the pot as shown in the picture above. Allow the dumplings to cook until they are nice and plump, about 10 minutes.
Dumplings nice and plump!
That is it! The soup is done. Ladle it into bowls and serve it immediately. It tastes best if eaten right away. It has an absolutely FANTASTIC flavor. If you can't eat the soup right away, remove the dumplings from the broth and store them covered. When ready to eat, place them back in the soup and warm while stirring.Here's an empty soup bowl looking rather sad. Better fill it up. Oh, that interminable waiting!
The finished soup, warm and delicious!
Someone who shall remain nameless, made sure both dogs, Linus and Kelly, had their portion of soup!
January 2 and time to go. Sad to be leaving but looking forward to going home. Below is a picture of Linus, my sweet bichon frise waiting to go home. We had packed our things, including the two dog beds, on top of which Linus decided to climb. I guess he was trying to say: "please don't forget these, they are way too comfortable!" You're the man Linus!