Newfoundland Split Pea Soup
Friday, October 7, 2011
Earlier this week I met some of Newfoundland's finest musical talent all the way down here in the Boston States. Sean McCann of Great Big Sea fame has embarked on a small U.S. tour with his band The Committed, featuring great fiddler Kelly Russel and guitarist Craig Young. In addition to being an excellent singer, guitar player and songwriter, Sean is a master of the Irish drum the bodhran, and I was fortunate enough to win a meet and greet contest with Sean as well as a free bodhran lesson before the show. I've been playing the bodhram for a couple years now but still have much to learn. Thanks to Sean, I've picked up some excellent tips that I'll be putting to practice. Besides the lesson and meet and greet, the concert was outstanding. We had front row seats and the boys rocked out with songs off Sean's latest CD "Son of a Sailor," some tunes from his debut CD "Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes," in addition to a couple recognizable Great Big Sea shanties, an original song by Craig and some traditional Newfoundland jigs and reels from Kelly. We were left wanting more and are looking forward to the next time they're down in this neck of the woods. For a taste of the music, check out Great Big Sean and do yourself a favour and buy the CDs. They are wicked good!
As a little tribute to my recent encounter with Sean McCann and The Committed, here's a recipe repeat for a traditional Newfoundland soup. An old Newfoundland celebrity cookbook of mine featured a recipe for Sean's pea soup and doughboys, so like a good Newfoundland gaffer such as himself, I'm sure he enjoys a feed of pea soup whenever he's back on the north shores of Conception Bay where the winds can blow right through you. Enjoy again.
I doubt if there is a single grandmother in Newfoundland, or "Nan" as we like to call them, who doesn't make the best pot of pea soup. This traditional French-Canadian habitant pea soup, made with yellow split peas, a left over ham bone and some vegetables has been a staple for families both in Newfoundland and New England. The recipes I've seen from both regions are nearly identical, with yellow split peas, a meaty leftover ham bone or salt meat or salt pork if you don't have one, and then root veggies such as onion, carrot, celery, turnip and potatoes. In Newfoundland it's traditional to serve "doughboys" with pea soup, a simple dumpling made with flour, baking powder, salt and water or milk, which are steamed atop the soup just before serving.
Last week I had a craving for pea soup, something I refused to eat as a kid because of the smell. For the most part, I followed the recipe in Book 9 of Traditional Recipes of Atlantic Canada; however, I made a few changes.
Unfortunately, I did not have a meaty ham bone. What I did have at my grocery store however were smoked ham hocks, which are almost just as good. I also avoided soaking the peas and added more water. I have never found that soaking the peas overnight saves any noticeable difference in cooking time. Plus, I found that using 8 cups of water means I have to add more. Lastly, instead of the 2 cups of peas in the book recipe, I added 1 pound, which happens to be 1 bag. I didn't measure it, but it's not too far off 2 cups. Lastly, I love savory, and I added some of it near the end. I also saw savory in a traditional New England version of this soup. We're not so different you know. Here's how I put it all together.
In a large, enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven, add:
- 12 cups (3 quarts) cold water
- 2 smoked ham hocks (or 1 large meaty ham bone)
- 2 bay leaves
- bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour
Meanwhile pick through (for stones) and rinse:
- 1 pound of yellow split peas
After the ham hocks/bone have cooked for one hour, add the peas, stir and simmer for another 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile prep your veggies:
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 stalks celery, sliced
- 1/2 a large rutabaga/turnip, small dice
- 2 large russet potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
Add the vegetables and 1 tsp of dried savory (rubbed between your fingers), and cook until the vegetables are tender and the soup has thickened. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
For an extra treat, make some doughboys and serve hot on a cold winter night!
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About Me...The Wicked Newfoundlander
I'm originally from Newfoundland, Canada, and very proud of it! I moved to upstate New York in 2007, and I spend much of my time working and playing throughout New England. Besides my wife, our dog and hockey, I'm passionate about food. I love to cook and create great tasting food. I also love tasting and critiquing food, and comparing regional cuisine (notably Newfoundland and New England dishes).