We’ve been having a dry spell, and I see from my lonely window that neighborhood folks are talking walks, cleaning up winter gardens, and otherwise enjoying the rare winter sun. These activities are even better when you have a hot mug of smoky, thick split pea soup waiting to warm you up when you come home.
I devised this recipe to use up some kale, and thought it would be perfect in a Scandinavian split pea soup with ham and onions. Retrogrouch says this is the best split pea soup he’s ever tasted, and he’s cognoscenti. The surprisingly large quantity of caramelized onions and shallots serves to mellow out and sweeten the predominant split pea flavor, and it’s much prettier than your average split pea soup thanks to the ham chunks and kale.
I don’t think I’d make this one vegetarian, since the smoked flavor of the ham shank is essential, but perhaps you could try alder-smoked salt and searing the onions on a hot grill before using them to add more smokiness? Root vegetables like parsnips and carrots would also be nice.
The photo below is of the soup immediately after the kale is added. You can see from the top image that it thickens up quite a bit the next day, when the soup is even better.
Winter Walks Yellow Split Pea Soup
2-3 cups yellow split peas
4 cups of chopped yellow onions
2 T. unsalted butter
1 or 2 meaty ham shanks
1 small bunch kale
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 t. fresh thyme or 1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
salt, as needed
In a large dutch oven, caramelize onions in butter until rich brown over medium to medium-low heat. Add shallots when onions are almost done, since they cook faster. If onions start to burn, add a bit of water to cool down the pot.
While onions are caramelizing, rinse split peas and pick out rocks and other detritus. Add ham shank, split peas, thyme, and pepper to onions. Add enough water to cover the split peas by 2-3 inches. Wait to add salt. Simmer for about an hour partially covered, depending on how old split peas are, until peas swell up, soften, and start to break apart. Add chopped kale and parsley. Remove ham hocks and cut meat off bone, then add ham pieces to soup. Simmer for about 30 minutes more, or until peas dissolve and soup becomes creamy. Even better the next day.