Swedish Split Pea Soup
“Can you make lunch today?” my mom asked one chilly morning while I sat down for coffee.
“Sure!” I said, not really knowing what to make.
My parents and I always divided up the cooking duties during my visits back home. This yearly sojourn in Sweden has become a veritable feast of new recipes to discover on top of my old favourites I still get to enjoy. Food is a huge thing for my family. Almost daily trips to the grocery store, planning and prepping. So much fun.
I took a sip of coffee and we started to plan the day—plan the food. We were talking about soup. How we all love soup. All kinds. Savoury, sweet, hot and cold.
“Almost,” my mom interjected. Her hand had reached out and touched my arm. “There is one I am not fond of.”
It was the classic, Swedish split pea soup.
Really? I thought. Perhaps she just hadn’t had a great version of it yet. Back in the middle ages, Sweden, while still a Catholic empire, Friday was a day of fast. So, on Thursdays, people started making a hearty soup with yellow split peas, cooked in a delicious broth of pork and served with hard bread, mustard and cheese.
Long after The Catholic Church lost its grip here, Thursday is still called ‘soup day’. Today’s Special in restaurants is often soup and most schools serve soup for lunch.
Today was not Thursday. It was, however, a perfect day for hearty soup. This in mind, I jotted down items I needed to get for lunch. My mom, sharp eyed as ever, spotted ‘yellow split peas’ on the list. She looked at me. I looked at her, smiled and nodded. She smiled back.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she said. I assured her she’d love it, all the while quietly praying I would be right.
This is a very simple recipe—though a bit time consuming to prepare—the results are rustic and beautiful. My dad loves split pea soup, so I wasn’t worried about him. My mom’s verdict? Well, one wouldn’t take seconds if one didn’t like it, correct?
2 cups yellow split peas
8 cups water
1 large onion
2-3 bay leaves
5 whole allspice corns
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp thyme
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup crème fraîche
pinch of salt
Place the peas in a large bowl and fill up with water. Leave to swell for 6-12 hours.
Drain the peas and transfer to a large sauce pan. Add most of the water. Cut the carrots in 2″ pieces and peel and quarter the onion. Add to the pot along with bay leaves. Bring to a boil and let simmer, uncovered for 30 min. Fold half of the bacon in half and tie together with kitchen string. Add along with the rest of the spices and let simmer for another 30 min. Stir once in a while and add water as needed. Remove the bacon and set aside. Let the soup cook until the peas are soft and starting to break down.
In a frying pan, fry the rest of the bacon until nicely browned and crisp. Cut into small pieces and place in a serving dish.
Remove carrots, onions, bay leaves and allspice corns from the soup. Cut the bacon from the soup into small pieces and add back to the soup.
In a bowl, mix together mustard, creme fraiche, salt and pepper.
Decorate the hot soup with a dollop of mustard crème fraîche and sprinkle with fried bacon. Serve with crisp bread, butter and Havarti cheese.