- Food & Drink
There is snow again. Not enough to stop me getting to work but enough to make me grateful for central heating. I’m battling the weather on all fronts – with thick socks, knitted hats and bowls of soup.
Named after the noxious yellow fogs that used to poison Londoners when the capital actually made things, London particular is a thick soup made from dried yellow split peas. It takes a few hours to simmer into soupy readiness, but once all the ingredients are in the pot, you can just cover it and leave it to get on with the business of cooking. It keeps well in the fridge, so I made a batch on the weekend and brightened my first days back at work with steaming bowlfuls.
Victorian recipes settle on ham hock as the meaty flavouring that gets boiled with the peas and then shredded, but earlier split pea soups use beef bones, veal bones or any bones you can lay your hands on. The amount of bones I have waiting at home to be turned into soup at any one time is approximately none. And I can get ham hocks, but then I do live in a particularly nose-to-tail eating neighbourhood. So for this recipe, I’ve made it easy for everyone by using bacon lardons. They’re cheap, nicely fatty and easy to cook with. They also give the soup a smokey savouriness which, combined with the sheer weight of dried peas, makes this a filling and satisfying meal in the middle of winter.
275g dried yellow split peas
200g smoked bacon lardons
150g onion, finely chopped
200g carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped (reserve any leaves)
2 bay leaves
1 Place the peas in a bowl, cover with water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place a pan over a medium heat and add the bacon lardons. Fry, stirring, for 5–6 minutes, until golden all over. Add the onions, carrot and celery and continue to fry over a low heat, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes or until soft.
2 Drain the peas and add to the vegetables with 11/2 litres water and the bay leaves. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to a rolling simmer and cook for 11/2-2 hours, until the split peas are tender. Remove the bay leaves.
3 Take the pan off the heat and use a hand-held blender to blend the soup until it’s half smooth and half chunky. Taste and season. Ladle into warm bowls and top with any chopped celery leaves you have. Serve immediately. The soup will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.