Thursday, January 26, 2012

Split Pea Soup for One

Ham hock optional, but being at home you can pick it up with your hands!
Cooking at home, I've discovered, has the distinct advantage of being at home.  While things simmer and perk or bake, hard-working you can play the radio (or the piano.)  Relaxing you can bring home the NYT to read while lazing on the couch with the cat.  Your laundry, if you're blessed with the ability to do it at home, can be lazily floating through its warm dryer as you put your nose down in a pot or wine glass.  There's no waiting for the server to bring you another glass of water or waving her away from the bar so you can have your check.  No walking or driving through cold, rain, sleet, and snow only to wait ad nauseum for a parking spot or the bus that's 20 minutes late.  That's if you live in the city as do I.
Freezable, microwavable REAL Tupperware ordered from

 Cooking at home also gives you more than one meal; there are leftovers. Make a bit extra, as with this soup, and enjoy a great lunch at your desk tomorrow.  If you do a big once-a-month shop, include some dried beans or peas, aromatics like onions and garlic, and a stash of good canned tomatoes and broth.  Bacon or ham hocks, or even chopped ham, can be frozen if necessary.   Ham, particularly, is better if you don't freeze it, but ham hocks seem to freeze very well, as does bacon. Whatever you do, be prepared to cook and also to save yourself quite of bit of cash.  (Bowl of soup out is $5+ in St. Paul; you can make this whole pot for under $7 if you shop carefully.)

Last week, I made this split pea soup--a bigger batch than I'll write about here--and we had it for supper one night and lunch a couple of days.  There's still a serving in the freezer for a time when one of us is home alone and doesn't feel like cooking.  In other words, a little bit of cooking can go a long way.  Don't wait to go out for the things you love to eat.   This particular soup is good made in the crock pot, as well.  Try this:

Split Pea Soup-A Small Potful  about 3 servings
  • 1 qt chicken stock, homemade or store-bought low-sodium
  • 1/2# split peas (about a 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, trimmed, peeled, and cut into large pieces
  • 1 parsnip, optional, but lovely-good, trimmed, peeled, and cut into large pieces
  • 1 small onion, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 2 stalks celery, cleaned and cut up; use leaves, too
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme (some people like marjoram instead)
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • Dash of hot sauce (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 ham hock +/or 1 cup chopped ham
  • Croutons or sour cream/plain Greek yogurt, optional for garnish
  1. Pour chicken stock and peas in a small soup pot or 3qt crock pot.**
  2. In food processor (or by hand or chopper) chop the carrots, parsnips, onion, celery,  and garlic until coarsely chopped.  Scrape into the soup pot.
  3. Add thyme, bay leaf, hot sauce, pepper, and the ham hock +/or chopped ham. Stir.
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. (If in crock pot, turn setting to low and let cook 6-8 hours.)  Let cook until peas and vegetables are very, very tender--between 1 and 2 hours. Stir occasionally and add some water if the soup becomes too thick.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
  5. If desired, puree in food processor, with immersion blender, or with a potato masher.  You can remove the ham hock and slice off the meat, chop it, and return it to the pot or serve a bowl (as above) with the ham hock proudly at attention.  Serve hot with croutons or a tish of sour cream if desired.
  6. Cool completely before storing in the refrigerator tightly covered for 1-2 days or freezing for up to 3 months or so.  (Read here for USDA guidelines on freezing food.)
**If you're cooking your soup on the stove, you can choose to first saute in a tablespoon of olive oil the chopped vegetables, going on to add the broth, peas, herbs, meat, etc. and go on from #4.   That is a great way to begin soup and is one I often use.  In this case,  I chose to mix the peas and the broth first as I was using a crock pot and it was simpler.  Do what you like best.  Your soup will be luscious, I know!
The Solo Cook's Note:  Most of the flavor in soup comes not from adding salt or pepper, etc., but from the meat/bones, onions, carrots, celery, or other vegetables--either in the homemade broth or in the soup itself or both.  Begin with a good foundation of meat/bones and vegetables and your soup won't need a big dose of salt.  You'll see I do not include salt at all as the broth and the ham contain so much.  If you'd like a little, add it, of course.  But wait until the soup is soup before you carefully pinch a bit in.

This is 1/3 of an entire ham hock...  Here's a whole one below:

You can buy already cut ham hocks or a butcher will sometimes cut one for you.  Another option is a ham steak with a bone; you can use part for the soup and part for your Saturday egg fry up.

Wine?  I'm all at opposites here, but both are American:  Zinfandel or Chardonnay.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,


  1. hy Alyce,
    chanced upon your space while blog your space..
    very interesting posts with nice presentation..
    soup sounds irresistably hearty..
    Am your happy follower now.;)
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

  2. Thanks for making my day. I also blog at Will stop and check out Tasty Appetite.


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