This is a fantastic winter warmer of a soup – I say soup, but it’s more accurately a meal in a bowl, with its thick, hearty mix of dried green peas, vegetables and flavourful meats. It is the sign of a good soup if your spoon can stand upright in your bowl!
In Friesland, the northern region of The Netherlands where my husband’s family come from, there is a marathon speed-skating race called The Elfstedentocht . It runs for approximately 200 kilometers in a huge circle around the eleven cities of the region. Because, for safety reasons, the ice needs to be of a minimum thickness for the race to proceed, sometimes there is as little as 48 hours notice for both competitors and spectators, although there is a frenzy of excitement for weeks as temperatures fall and the possibility of the race being staged rises.
Most of the country stay at home to watch the race, but the diehard enthusiasts flock to the start/finish town of Leeuwarden and all along the route to cheer on the skaters. To keep themselves warm during the race, spectators eat Snert or Dutch Pea Soup.
You need to start at least the day before you want to serve the soup with soaking the peas. The rest of the cooking can be completed on the following day, but this soup improves with keeping, so starting it even earlier is not a problem. This makes a large quantity of soup, easily enough for 8-10 people, but it freezes well.
I’ve adapted this recipe to ingredients available in the UK. If you’re planning any outdoor activities over the holiday period, then a flask of this soup will be a fantastic addition to the day.
Dutch Pea Soup
400g dried green peas
1.5 litres water
1 boneless pork chop
1 smoked ham hock or small smoked gammon joint
2 large carrots – sliced thickly and diced
1 large onion – chopped
1 celeriac – peeled and cubed
1 bunch celeriac leaves or celery leaves roughly chopped
2 leeks – rinsed and sliced
1 large potato – peeled and chopped
1 U-shaped smoked sausage
a handful of flat-leaf parsley – chopped
1 sharp apple – peeled and cubed
- The night before: Put the peas into a large bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak overnight.
- The next day:
- Drain the peas.
- Put the water, peas, pork, ham hock, celeriac, carrots and onion into large saucepan and simmer gently for 3 hours.
- Add the peppercorns and bayleaf, leeks, potato and celery leaves.
- Simmer for a further 1 hour.
- Remove from the heat.
- Remove the bayleaf and fish out the peppercorns (optional, most of the time I leave them in).
- Fish out the meat.
- Trim away all fat and discard. Shred the pork and ham/gammon and return to the saucepan.
- Slice and dice the smoked sausage and add to the saucepan.
- Warm the soup gently until heated through.
- Using a potato masher, gently crush the vegetables a few times – you’re not aiming for a smooth puree, just a comforting, thickened mix.
- To serve: Spoon into bowls and stir through the chopped parsley and the apple – it really lifts the flavour and makes what might be a rather heavy soup, light and fresh.