French Cooking: Soupe aux pois cassés

By April Paute Dried peas have a history going back thousands of years. Originating in the Middle East, their use spread quickly to the Mediterranean region and then to China and India. Actually, it was the cultivation of peas in Europe that helped to stave off the famine in England in the 16th century.
 
Peas are most often used in their split form. The split pea has an earthy flavor and they are similar to lentils in their use and nourishment. Split peas usually break down while cooking and are, therefore, great for making thick soups and purées. I am offering two recipes this week: Split Pea Soup and Purée of Split Peas.
 
Soupe aux pois cassés
Split Pea Soup
For 4-6 persons
Preparation and cooking time:   1 hr. 10 min.
 
      
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup smoked ham, diced
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken broth (canned or homemade)
  • 1 1/2 cups green split peas, rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook for about 10 minutes. (Do not let brown) Add the ham and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the water, broth, split peas, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and pepper. Simmer for about 50 minutes.
NOTE: If desired, a soup spoon of heavy cream can be added to the soup bowls when serving.
 
 
Puree de pois cassés
Split pea purée
For 4 person
Cooking and Preparation time: 1 1/2 hrs. - 2 hrs.
 

  • l lb. split peas
  • 2 ozs. slab bacon, diced
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced in rounds
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced in rounds
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Put the peas in a pot of unsalted cold water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Drain.
Brown the bacon in 1 tbsp. of butter for three minutes. Add the carrot, onion, split peas, sugar, thyme and bay leaf. Add water to cover.
Cover the pot and let simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours. Add salt after 40 minutes of cooking time. If necessary, add more water. Drain the peas. Puree in a food processor. Add pepper and the remaining butter. Serve with grilled sausages or grilled meat—pork, lamb or beef. 
Et voilà!

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