Thursday, October 13, 2011

Irish Split Pea and Ham Soup

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Irish Split Pea and Ham Soup.  By the time this post is being read, we'll be meandering the coastline of Ireland, peering at menus to see if their authentic Irish Split Pea and Ham Soup tastes anything like the recipe I made here in my kitchen.


We're leaving soon.  My heart is filled with gratitude that these travels are possible.  It truly feeds my soul.  


I leave you with a warming bowl of  Irish soup flavored with scented herbs and rich ham.  


We cannot wait to close the books, zip up the pencil cases, shut down the computers and go to school in the bigger wider world of learning.



Recently, we brought a slew of books to the used book store.  We always feel so thrifty when we do this, however, we can't seem to exit without carting back home umpteen more books. 


In light of our impending adventure, I was so tickled to see this Irish Pub Cooking cookbook.  The photos were gorgeous and I cannot wait to see and taste some of the dishes actually in Ireland.  




Storms settled over our city this weekend!  It actually felt like fall (for the moment!)  Luckily, I picked a good time to go out for my long walk because it rained hard the rest of the day.  I walked home in cool soft  drizzle and it felt wonderful.





After flipping through the pages of my new Irish cookbook and dreaming about the sights we hope to see, I decided on this rainy and blustery day to make Irish Split Pea and Ham soup.  Culinary research!  

Off to the butcher counter for the requisite ham hocks.  I just LOVE going up to the butcher counter for my recipe requests. 

I feel like an empowered and knowledgeable gourmand (if just for a moment).  Butchers get so excited when you ask for something like "ham hocks".  This guy nearly hurdled the counter, and  skipped to the case to deftly pluck ham hocks out for me.   

We always have a quick chat about what it is I am cooking.  Nods of appreciation come my way as if I am one of the few people to have come along in awhile asking for "ham hocks".



So many wonderful flavors go into this humble soup.  Thyme scents this recipe.   And, oh how I love thyme.  Just rubbing it on my fingers and smelling the earthy aroma is a delight.


Bay leaves also fragrance the pot.  Beautiful dusky and earthy green bay leaves.




I was thinking quite a bit about the trip on my Sunday walk.  I'm excited.  We've watched an army of documentaries on Ireland's history... their rocky relationship with England...their cursed crippling potato famine years, and the rich connection we have in the U.S. with our Irish ancestors.


I'm so intrigued by their Celtic roots and how they are interwoven into aspects of the life of the country today.  I want to see and smell and watch a chunk of that curious peat being used for fuel.  




M. and I watched a strikingly poignant Irish movie called "A Shine of Rainbows" starring Aidan Quinn.  The contrast between the rich Irish landscape shots that lull the senses with beauty to the harsh reality of a country that has seen so much pain and suffering is portrayed so heart-rending in this film.  An entire box of tissues is recommended for this marvelous story.




I am often asked, "Why do I blog?".  It struck me while I was stirring this soup and wandering through the pages of my new Irish cookbook, that it must be a need to make a connection through food to people, cultures, and stories.  


Not only do we learn about  places and people through the movies that we watch, but for food bloggers there is a strong sense of connection in making, tasting, and sharing the food eaten in far away places.  One could say, we are a very strange unique bunch.


Food connections can easily be made with  locals when traveling because who doesn't delight in showing off their culture through special foods, dishes, and family recipes handed down one generation after another.



We'll be staying in a remote part of Ireland in a very tiny town on the Dingle Peninsula.  I am so curious about the life of the local people there.  I cannot wait to visit their pubs, tuck ourselves in a remote corner of the frenzy and just watch the life of this small village unfold.  


Pubs.  I'm not a big beer lover but I definitely want to see that Shamrock swirled on the top of the foam on a Guinness.  I want to see if I can drink a pint and if the shamrock will still be there if I can get to the bottom.  


Ooooh, we may get some blurry shots to share while partaking in this particular cultural exchange.


My kids call me the "Queen of Google".  There was no way I could make this soup without pondering why those cute little peas are "split".  Every half hour or so in our house, the kids note (tease) that I am googling something or other.  Usually, something trivial other people wouldn't waste their keyboard energy  on but would keep me up late into the night with unfulfilled angst.


So, why are split peas split?  I'll save you from a sleepless night.


Googled.  They are split because when the thin little skin holding the pea together is knocked off during processing, the pea is naturally in two pieces.  The little pea then falls apart into two.  It's that simple.  That's all.


Yes, because of this newfound knowledge, I had a much more restful sleep that night.  But if you need more on this split pea topic, I can share.  Because the peas are now in two halves, they will cook faster.  This is good when making soup, especially in the "olden days".





Soup and brown bread.  I hope to make these my daily staple. I am already dreaming of the dishes I want to try and re-make when we return.






Riley will turn 15 years old in Dublin, Ireland.  I remember fondly when he turned one in Wales and 6 in Japan. 


I am so tickled this trip will happen over his birthday.  I found a hotel called Clontarf Castle that is an actual castle around which they built a hotel.  This will be a surprise for him.  At 15, I realize he won't jump up and down with excitement.  But, as his mom, I know he will love it.




Mushrooms are springing up underneath bushes and in tiny nooks and crannies.  This little green guy was posing so nicely on these beautiful mushrooms, I thought I would share him in this article.






I'll leave these last images of my wet and wonderful day being sprinkled by cool and refreshing rain.




The sun is rising now.  I have so much to do.  My heart is filled with anticipation and imagination.  The sky is dusky orange right now, just below the horizon.  The clouds look like someone flung them out in pieces across the sky.  Beautiful.  Powerful.

This is my hour of the morning to put life in perspective, collect my thoughts, and be thankful for the life that I enjoy.







Then, in a few days, we'll pack up our bags, blow out the figurative candles, and see what is in this big world of ours there is to experience, enjoy, and collect as memories of our time here on earth.



Irish Split Pea and Ham Soup
(serves 4-6)


2 1/2 cups split green peas (soaked over night)
4 bacon slices
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2  carrots, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 1/2 cups cold water
1 sprig of fresh thyme (I used a clump)
2 bay leaves
1 large potato, roughly diced
1 ham hock (for flavoring the soup)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper


Put the split peas into a bowl, cover with cold water, and leave to soak overnight.


Cut the bacon into small pieces.  In a large saucepan, dry-fry the bacon for 4 to 5 minutes or until crisp.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon to paper towels.


Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the fat in the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the onion is soft but not brown.  Return the bacon to the pan with the water.


Drain the split peas and add to the pan with the thyme, bay leaves, potato, and ham hock and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.


Remove the thyme, bay leaves and hock.  Process the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth or chunky.  Return the mixture to the pot and heat through gently.  Season with plenty of salt and black pepper.  Ladle into soup bowls and serve.





15 comments:

  1. Wow - that soup looks delicious.. I am not a soup fan as such but this one I think I wouldn't mind giving a go. Lovely pics as always.

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  2. I love split peas, and this looks like a fantastic, fall soup. Have a great time in Ireland! I've visited Ireland once, and it was in the fall three years ago. A lovely time to be there.

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  3. Lovely post - the soup looks so comforting!

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  4. I hope (know) you'll have a wonderful time in Ireland. My husband is Irish born and lived in Tipperary until he was about 25. My favorite part about traveling through Ireland is the pubs you'll find every few miles or so. They are rustic and certainly not touristy. Walk in and find the roaring fire. That's where to enjoy your pint of Guiness or a nice cup of tea. :)

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  5. I forgot about the recipe looking at your beautiful pictures:)

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  6. Oh thank you Sarah - split pea is probably my favorite soup!! And have a wonderful trip - travel is good for the soul (and perhaps stomach). I have been to the Dingle Peninsula - it is beautiful!! Looking forward to hearing all about it!!

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  7. I am so jealous of your trip, what a fabulous time you're going to have. My husband and I once spent a year outside of London, and the thought of pub food makes we want to hop a plane right now. I can't wait to hear about your travels, and in the meantime I'll try your soup.

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  8. Great pictures! My husband is a big fan of split pea soup. He'd love this version. Have a great time in Ireland.

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  9. This is a beautiful post. I've spent a lot of time over in Ireland and am extremely jealous! I got married there last year and we honeymooned in Killarney and the Dingle Peninsula. Such a beautiful, beautiful place that is near and dear to my heart! Enjoy all those amazing soups and brown bread. I can't wait to check back and hear about your travels.

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  10. Such stunning imagery to accompany your recipe..and to compliment your upcoming Irish journey! Can't wait to see and hear all about it. Wishing you happy..safe..wonderful travels!

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  11. Sarah! I hope you are already having a great adventure in Ireland. I so miss traveling and can only imagine the fun you guys are having.
    And thanks for the soup recipe. I grew up eating a similar version. Love those ham hocks!
    -Erin

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  12. Enjoy ireland. I hear it is beautiful. My mu makes a version of that split pea soup. For many years I wouldn't eat it but now I love it on cold rainy winter days.

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  13. Please!!! write a book - stuffed with all your wonderful photos - it would be in my kitchen and on my coffee table!! - Beautiful post and have a WONDERFUL time in Ireland!!
    Mary x

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  14. hehe... I am reading all of this backwards, so I already know you had a fabulous time!
    Weird.... I just watched that Irish film a few weeks ago too. And I LOVED it.

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