Having grown up in The Great White North, I am often asked ‘what is Canadian cuisine?’ My response is always that there no clear answer – Canadian culture has been so heavily influenced by the massive waves of immigrants over the country’s history that meals can vary greatly depending on regional populations: British, French, Scandinavian, German and (more recently) Asian and American foods all have their place. If I have to think about ‘traditional’ Canadian meals I instantly come up with dishes that would have be served to loggers and pelters: hearty meals that often use preserved meats or game made with ingredients that were either in season or had a long shelf life.
This split pea soup is one of the dishes that I find most comforting and although variations would be found around all of Scandinavia, Northern Germany and The Netherlands, it was also a staple of early Europeans in Canada – likely due to the affordability and long shelf-life of ingredients – even today, having sourced the ham hock from a posh butcher in north London this was under £3.
It might look like gruel, but this a delicious, healthy, high-protein soup that really satisfies after being out in the cold.
Recipe (serves 4)
2.5 Cups of yellow split peas
2.3 Litres of water
1 Ham hock
2 Medium carrots (finely chopped)
2 Medium onions (finely chopped)
1 Teaspoon of dried thyme
Salt to taste – you likely won’t need any if the ham hock is salted
Rinse peas and place in a large pot with the water, bring to a boil and allow them to simmer for 2 minutes. Set aside for 1 hour.
Add ham hock to peas and water, bring to the boil and add the chopped onion and carrot – reduce heat and simmer for about an hour and a half. You will have to skim the surface a few times during this period. Remove the ham hock – separate any meat from the fat and bone, return to the soup. Continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until very thick – you might need to whisk the soup together as the peas start to separate and stick to the bottom. If serving immediately no binding agent is required, but if you will be serving the next day (which adds to flavour), stir in some roux 15 minutes before removing from heat.
To make the roux, melt 1tbs butter in a sauce pan and add enough flour to form a thick paste, cook for a few minutes to prevent roux from tasting like raw flour.
This soup really hits the spot after a long day of clubbing baby seals, but is equally brilliant reheated as an easy meal on a cold London evening.