I grew up eating split pea soup so often and it brings back so many sweet memories of long ago that the thought of it makes my mouth water. If it’s on the menu at a fancy restaurant where I know it will be doctored up with elaborate ingredients such as sherry or truffle oil, it’s hands down the first thing I order. I usually turn the soup into my entire meal. I love garnishing it with whatever I'm in the mood for... sweet ham, sweet potatoes or sweet bananas, or all of the above!
I want my kids to feel the same way about split pea soup as I do-- to think of me when they eat it, as I think of my own mom. When the temperature drops it’s the first meal I make. Instead of using a pressure cooker, as my mom did, I make it on the stovetop so I can smell it cooking all day. This version of my mom’s Sopa de Chicharo creates an ambiance in my house as well as a meal.
split pea soup
Obviously, if you're a meat eater, the tastiest part of this soup is the delicious influence of ham hocks. Really there's nothing better. But you can also use the ham as a garnish.
I grew up eating this soup with sliced up bananas. I suppose my mom thought this would be a healthier way for me to get all my vitamins and minerals... all in one shot. But the sweetness of the bananas is something I now crave every time I have split pea soup!
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks, chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 16-oz bags of dried split peas, sorted and rinsed
1 ham bone or 2 shanks
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp salt
½ calabaza or any pumpkin squash
1 ripe banana, sliced
1 lb diced cooked ham
french bread, toasted
fresh steamed peas (for garnish)
In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat oil over medium. Add leeks, garlic and celery. Season with salt, pepper and cumin. Cook about 10 minutes
Add ham, split peas and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for at least 1 ½ hours.
Remove ham from the soup and set aside to cool. Puree the soup in a blender and return it to the pot.
Trim excess fat from the ham, cut ham into ½ inch pieces and add to the soup. Taste and add extra salt if necessary.
Use diced baked ham instead of ham bone or shank.
You can always skip the ham and go vegetarian.
Serve with a skewer of steamed calabaza, diced ham, bananas and a side of French bread, as shown.
Add a few fresh peas over the top
If you want to get fancy, add a touch of sherry or truffle oil. I do that in my own bowl of soup because no one else in my family likes it!