I’ve always found comfort in a bowl of hot soup, but during a long kitchen remodel, it also proved the perfect meal. I could cook a big batch to last almost a week using just one or two pots and pans. That experience grew into my cookbook Love Soup. The recipes in that book are vegetarian, but one of my all-time favorite soups is split pea made with rich, smoky ham hocks.
Split pea soup is a simple thing, really: Split peas (dried peas that are peeled and split) are simmered with aromatics until soft, and then either puréed or served slightly lumpy. There are regional variations using different seasonings and aromatics all over Europe and North America. My version uses ham hocks for smoky succulence, plus carrots, onions, and celery that have been browned for a deeper flavor and added sweetness, along with a pinch of cayenne and cloves for a delicious little spice kick.
Get the recipe: Split Pea Soup
Need to Know
Green and yellow split peas are almost identical. The green ones get their color from a recessive gene; they’re more common in some regions and have a slightly sweeter flavor. Just remember, whichever you use, to pick them over and discard small stones or shriveled peas.
Use pork to add smoky flavor. I like ham hocks, but a ham bone or even bacon will do in a pinch.
Simmer the peas until they’re falling apart. This takes a long time—about an hour and a half—but it makes smooth and velvety soup.
Cook the onions, carrots, and celery separately from the peas so they become sweet. Covering them helps retain their moisture and soften them so that they’ll blend smoothly into the soup.
Add salt and cayenne judiciously to avoid overseasoning. It takes a moment for the flavors to meld with the soup and become noticeable.