Split Pea Soup with Bacon (or, How To Eat Well For Almost No Money)

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”

― M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition

There is a book called How To Cook A Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher. It is arguably the best piece of food writing for hard times ever created. Fisher wrote the book during World War II food rationing, and created a classic filled with wit, humor and lessons on how to make do with less while still eating like you love food.

I have in my head a collection of recipes I think of as “How Not To Starve” meals. They lurk in the shadow of How To Cook A Wolf’s lessons, not from the book, necessarily, but cheap, filling and delicious.

Split Pea Soup with Bacon

This Split Pea Soup is one such meal. It can be made with very little, and yet is full flavored and almost sweet. The trick to making simple, cheap pulses like beans, lentils or split peas tasty is seasoning – cumin and ginger give this soup a lovely flavor and lemon zest and juice brighten things up. If you use water to make this soup, don’t skimp on the salt.

This soup is vegan-friendly, but if you eat meat, the addition of the salty, smoky crispy bacon is wonderful.

Split Pea Soup with Bacon
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
This soup is filling, hearty, inexpensive and got rave reviews from everyone in my family – even my kids!
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 carrot, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2-1/2 cups split green peas, picked over to remove any stones or debris and rinsed
  • 8 cups water, chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 pound bacon (optional, but really good)
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add carrot and onion and cook until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add cumin, ginger, salt and pepper to taste and split peas to the pot. Cook until spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add 8 cups water or stock to the pot and bring all to a simmer over medium-high heat. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until split peas are completely tender, about an hour to 90 minutes.
  4. When peas are very tender, whisk soup vigorously to break up some of the peas and thicken the soup. Add the zest and juice of one lemon to soup.
  5. While soup is simmering, cut bacon crosswise into 1/2-inch wide strips. Cook bacon in a skillet set over medium heat until fat has rendered and bacon is crispy. Set aside.
  6. To serve: ladle soup into bowls. Top with a generous sprinkling of crispy bacon.
  7. Serve soup topped with bacon, if desired.

Comments

  1. That sounds really good. Pea soup is one of those things I tend to make the same way (ham bone peas, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, occasionally tarragon if it’s still growing). Maybe I’ll break out of my rut and try this one.

  2. Delicious. Legumes are definitely the friend of the poor and hungry person. So nutritious, filling, and easy to make yummy. One interesting way I learned to use Legumes that is completely different is the Indian trick of soaking them until they are ALMOST sprouting, then blending in the blender with ginger, garlic, and spices, and then cooking like a pancake.

  3. I would love a whole book of those “how not to starve” recipes!

  4. is it ok to sub fresh ginger for ground? I don’t have any, don’t use it often, and would rather not buy it. but I do use fresh ginger a lot. have no idea if they are interchangeable. this sounds fabulous!

  5. Great post, and great book, i do lentels and other beans this way a lot, i like saffron and smoked paprica for a moroccon feel. They also make great leftovers they usually taste better the next day.

  6. Sounds wonderful–I’ve added the books to my to-read list. Soup is the perfect fall food.

  7. Fisher, like many other authors, wrote from the experiences of her day. If frugality (and the magic of inspiration that comes from it) made sense during those years of hunger and deprivation it is yet a wise course of action today. Less “cheap” than it is thoughtful, frugal cooking and living is what the planet and all its people will prosper from in the years ahead. Thank you for bringing the message and author to our attentions. Both are well worth revisiting

  8. So interesting that you would post the Split Peas recipe and talk about lean times during WWII. My dad used to tell us stories about growing up during the depression, and how their family would survive for a week on a bag of dried peas and what you could make from them. Peas for breakfast did not sound appetizing, but I bet on a hungry stomach it was. Thanks for bringing back the memory of a favorite family story.

  9. Love legumes and love MFK! There’ll be no argument from me on the greatness of “How to Cook a Wolf”, or anything else she wrote! Thanks for a new twist on an old fav…

  10. A classic comfort food for colder days! Great idea!

    My mother-in-law once tried to make pea soup in a pressure cooker “to save time” and was apparently slightly less than careful. A pea got stuck in the release valve, blocking it. Pressure built up. When it finally worked its way free – pea soup blew into her kitchen like a hot green volcano – it literally hit the fan, the ceiling, the cabinetry, anything within a 5 foot radius. She was cleaning pea soup off of everything for days.

    I’ll be following YOUR instructions. 

  11. This sounds delicious. I usually use leftover holiday ham in my pea soup to give it that meaty flavor, but this would be a great way of doing it pre-holidays. I have some bacon in the freezer right now calling out for some attention.

    One of my dinners-for-a-song is lentil soup. http://economistathome.com/2013/10/lentil-soup/ If I have homemade broth and homegrown tomatoes, it costs me about 6 bucks to make a huge pot brimming with the organic veggies.

    BTW, I love the new recipe print button. So handy!

  12. I LOVE split pea soup. I’ll have to give yours a try.

    I’m a bit of a texture fiend. One trick I picked up (from Ina Garten) is to reserve about 1/4 to 1/2 of your split peas and add them about half way through cooking. It makes the soup a little less uniform and gives it a bit of a bite. I usually add 3/4 of the peas at the start, cook for 40 minutes, add remaining 1/4 of the peas and cook for another 40 minutes.

  13. I had some yellow split peas in the cupboard so I made this today. Really, really good.

    I added a bit of smoked paprika which I usually do in anything that calls for bacon like this.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Ellen Partridge says:

    I made your pea soup last night (no bacon for me). It’s DELICIOUS. I especially love how the lemon brightens the flavor. Thanks so much for posting the recipe.

  15. I just made this soup, in fact, I’m eating it now….I’m not sure I’ve ever even tasted split-pea soup and I’ve surely never made it myself, but this is FABULOUS (and after reading the above comment realized I was so excited to try it I forgot the lemon…oops).

    How does it freeze??

  16. Just found this book at the local library!

  17. Instead of the bacon use ham hocks which are very inexpensive, wonderfully meaty and have the same smokey flavour of bacon. http://suburbanjubilee.blogspot.com.au/2010/07/slow-cooked-ham-hocks.html.

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