On our visit to Amsterdam in October 2009 I was very keen to try Erwtensoep, or Dutch Pea Soup. This is a traditional dish which I had read was widely available, especially in the colder months: in fact I was sure I remembered enjoying it on a previous visit. One lunchtime we managed to find a restaurant with Pea Soup on the menu and we were not disappointed. It was very warming and so filling we ended up having a snack rather than a main evening meal. I decided I simply had to hunt down a good recipe once I was back in London so I could make it myself to keep out the British winter chill.
There was nothing in my recipe books or the library, but I found several versions online and this recipe is my own interpretation with ideas taken from three recipes. The versions used for inspiration, along with some of the online comments, were: gourmettraveller, BBC Good Food & recipezaar. The resulting soup was a substantial lunch style soup, but you could easily add more meat for a soup suitable for a evening meal (such as ham and/or smoked sausage and/or pieces of fried belly pork strip, all of which should be added after the soup is liquidised). One recipe used leaves from the Lovage plant. I had some seed, which I added as an experiment and I felt gave a distinctive flavour that I felt enhanced the soup. The potato is traditionally added, I understand, helping to thicken the soup and also reducing any scum from cooking the peas.
Erwtensoep – Dutch Pea Soup
(Serves 3-4 depending on thickness of soup)
250g/8ozs green split peas (soaked overnight)
125g/4ozs streaky bacon, diced
1 stick celery, chopped
1 medium onion, peeled & chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled & chopped
1 medium leek, cleaned & finely sliced
½tsp lovage/ajwan seed (available in ethnic supermarkets) or chopped celery leaf
Large pinch each of ground spices: coriander, chilli, nutmeg, clove & ginger, more if you wish
1 medium potato, grated
2pints/40fl ozs/900ml stock, ham if possible but watch it is not too salty, or vegetable stock
2-3 frankfurter sausages, grilled and cut into 4-6 pieces each.
Salt & black pepper, to taste, if required
1. Soak the peas overnight in cold water. If there is not enough time for a long soak this can be speeded up by putting the peas into a saucepan, covering with boiling water and leaving to soak for 1hour. Bringing the peas back to the boil once or twice speeds up the softening process. Do not add salt until the peas are completely cooked as it toughens them and can slow down the cooking time.
2. In a large saucepan, fry the diced bacon in the butter until it is cooked through but not crisped. Remove and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.
3. Use the fat remaining in the pan to fry the celery, onion, carrot and leek over a gentle heat until soft. Stir in the lovage/ajwan seed along with the ground coriander, chilli, nutmeg, clove & ginger (these can be adjusted more or less to personal taste).
4. Drain the peas and stir into the cooked vegetable mixture. Stir the grated potato. Add the stock, bring to the boil, turn down heat and simmer until the peas have softened. Stir occasionally to make sure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add a little water if necessary if the soup starts to get too thick.
5. Blend the mixture until smooth. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Stir in most of the smoked cooked bacon and sausage, leaving a little to garnish the finished soup. Return the soup to the pan to reheat. (The reserved frankfurter and bacon can be reheated if necessary by a short burst of heat in the microwave or in a sieve placed over the steam of the reheating soup.)
6. Serve soup garnished with reserved frankfurter sausage and bacon, plus parsley or celery leaf if you wish, along with crusty bread.