Here it is the middle of February and I just can't believe that winter has not arrived here in the valley. Wiarton Willie, the groundhog, predicted 6 more weeks of winter on February 2nd...but winter has yet to arrive here in Western Canada. Now you better believe that in no way am I complaining here!!!!! A winter without snow is a dream come true when you can drive up into the mountains and get all the snow your little heart desires for snowboarding and skiing. We have some of the best powder snow in British Columbia!! But here in the valley I have not scraped my windshield, shoveled the driveway or put on snow tires this winter. My only desire for snow and some cooler weather would be for the Olympics in Vancouver. This will probably be the only time in my own history that I would be hoping for snow...except when I was a kid of course!!!!! Of course they are able to truck in snow from the mountains and man-made snow is always a big help as well. Last I heard Russia has even kindly offered to donate snow to the events. It would of course be too much to ask that we get through a winter here in Canada without snow at all.... but I do believe that the worst is over...if it ever came this year at all!!!
Since it is really winter what better way to enjoy cooler weather than with a comforting bowl of soup!!!Habitant Pea Soup or French Canadian Pea Soup is a water-based soup made from dried legumes which in French Canadian regions is referred to as soup aux pois. Habitant refers to people who live in rural Québec, where this hearty soup is a popular staple. As a teenager I remember travelling to Quebec City with my sister and having a satisfying bowl of Habitant Pea Soup and bread freshly baked from a stone oven. We also had a tourtiere with homemade pickled beets and dill pickles on the side. To me these are typically Canadian dishes that are well worth a try.
Habitant Pea Soup is medium-thick in texture and combines dried yellow peas, salt pork, onions, herbs, and spices as the main ingredients. However, additional vegetables such as carrots or potatoes, pieces of ham, and different types of dried peas are often added to many homemade versions of this soup. This is comfort food at it's best!!!! The reason we find soup so comforting is our ability to make it our own and add whatever ingredients we like, customize it to our tastes and then wallow in its warm goodness. This flavourful, chunky yet smooth soup simmers away while you're relaxing around the house....if only that were true!!!!
If you cook a bone-in ham, save the bone for this soup instead of the smoked hock. I would like to point out that the French Canadian split pea soup is traditionally made with yellow split peas. The split green pea soup is traditional in the Netherlands and elsewhere. But in Quebec... it is the yellow pea that rules!!!!
Ham hocks can be purchased at most specialty meat stores. However, you can also use finely diced bacon to obtain a similar flavour, but not quite as good. Just be sure to sauté the bacon first then drain most of the excess fat before adding the vegetables. The benefit of using ham hock instead of bacon is not just for flavour. Ham bones provide gelatin that contributes to the soups consistency after cooking.
I used some of the Salted Herbes I preserved back in the summer to add a hint of summer and a promise of what is to come...a girl has to dream doesn't she.....The bread that you see here is some Cheese Bread that I just had to make to remind me of my childhood back in Ontario. Anyone who grew up in Mennonite Country would remember cheese bread baked by the Mennonite ladies at the farmers market in St. Jacob's. Just take your favourite bread recipe and after the first rising shape it into an oblong. Spread chunks of Cheddar cheese on top and roll it up like a jelly roll. Then allow to rise again and bake. Easy peasy!!!!
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or vegetable oil
1 large onion
2 medium carrots
2 garlic cloves
4 cups dried split peas
12 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 small ham hock
3 whole bay leafs
1- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt or 1 tablespoon Salted Herbes
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Add the oil to a large pot and turn burner onto low heat. Finely chop the onions, celery, carrots and transfer each of them to the pot. Sauté until translucent - about 5 minutes. Then add the crushed garlic and quickly sauté for about 30 seconds.
Next, add the peas, ham hock, stock, bay leaves, salt (or salted herbes), pepper and bring the soup just to a boil. Then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the peas start to break down. Stir occasionally.
At about the 2 hour mark, remove the ham hock and let cool for a few minutes. Then remove the fat and bone, and discard. Shred the ham meat into larger pieces and return to the soup.
Taste for seasoning, then serve with your favorite fresh bread and a side salad for a complete meal. Enjoy!
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