Retro-fabulous: split pea soup with ham.

I sometimes believe I was born in the wrong decade.

I’ve always been very intrigued by the Roaring 20s. The energy, the excitement, the opulence, the champagne. What an era! It’s also no secret that I am a hippie at heart who would have felt most comfortable in the 60s and 70s. The style of that time period is my happy place– the colors, the clothes, the furniture, the music, the vibe. I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to retro.

As a child of the 70s and 80s, I probably share some nostalgia for certain foods with other people my age. I remember when we got our first microwave oven. It was gigantic and I was afraid to stand in front of it.  The microwave brought an era of convenience to American kitchens. My mom was a great cook, but I do remember the early microwavable TV dinners. Casseroles. My dad shaking Jiffy Pop by the handle over the stove for popcorn, the aluminum bubble growing bigger with each POP! I remember the importance of reading the back of a cereal box and the toys that came inside some of them. Do they even MAKE Cookie Crisp anymore? Ah, memories…

I’m not sure if my mom ever made us split pea soup. I have a strong suspicion that my brother and I would have refused to eat it. It’s GREEN. But a hot bowl of pea soup with a piece of crusty bread is somehow very nostalgic to me, and feels like a 70s-retro meal. And ‘tis the season for comfort food, isn’t it?

I took this recipe from my friend, Julie, years ago. From the day I met her, I was inspired by how comfortable she was in the kitchen. She wasn’t intimidated by trying something new. I was young, and trying to find my place in the culinary world. I have to smile when I imagine myself, 10 years ago, scribbling down this recipe and hoping I could pull it off.

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The ingredients are few and the flavors are big. Put on an era-appropriate album, ladle yourself a bowlful, and put your feet up in front of the fireplace on the next snowy evening. It may as well be 1976. Ahhhhhh. 

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Let’s start by heating up some olive oil and chopping ingredients. We’re going to need onion, carrot, green beans, a potato, and some garlic. Chop on! Get the onions started in the oil and give them a little salty sprinkle.

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When the onions are soft and getting translucent, it’s time to add 8 cups of water and some chicken stock cubes. One of my tricks when using these cubes is to add one more than the recipe calls for. Toss them in and add a bag of split peas. Cute little green guys!

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After floating a couple of bay leaves on top, you can step away from the stove for awhile. The peas have to simmer away for a good hour or more. Hey, maybe go check out what’s new on The Usual Bliss! Give the peas a stir now and then.

The peas will start to soak up some of the stock and get fatter. Time to ditch the bay leaves and add more goodies.

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Everybody in the pool! The ham, carrot, green beans, garlic, and potato all join the party and bubble away together for another 45 minutes. Taste the soup now and then to adjust salt and pepper seasonings.

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I know some people enjoy a pureed pea soup. I prefer bigger bites of yumminess in mine. This version is definitely a thick, chunky pea stew. On a whim, I tucked the immersion blender into the pot a time or two. It made the soup a great combo of thick and creamy AND chunky!

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At the very end, when all of your flavors and textures are right, add a dollop of heavy cream. Not too much- just a splash. 

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And now we eat. “Hearty” is a good word to describe this soup- a little goes a long way! Don’t forget a chunk or two of crusty bread for dipping. It’s a delish bowl full of comfort. Just like Mom would have made, back in the day (if we would have agreed to eat green soup.)

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What’s your favorite chilly-weather soup? What foods make you nostalgic?

Split Pea Soup with Ham

In a large pot, sauté 1 cup diced onion on medium low in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 cups of split peas, 8 cups of water, 5-6 chicken stock cubes, 2 bay leaves. Simmer 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves. Add chopped cooked ham, ½ cup chopped green beans, ½ cup chopped carrot, 1 diced potato, 2 tablespoons chopped garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 45 minutes. Add a dollop of heavy cream. Dunk crusty bread and enjoy!

14 replies »

  1. I loved 1976 and anything that reminds me of that is a good thing–I was in my last year at university and had American friends, so we made Thanksgiving dinner in residence, and I remember calling home to find out how to cook a turkey

  2. How fortuitous! I’m simmering some as I type!! Love green pea soup. Only mine has no meat or dairy and I home-make my veggie broth. For me, just peas, carrots, onions, celery, fresh dill, and broth (and liquid smoke, cayenne, and paprika for “kick”).

    Cheers, Amber!

  3. I came across your blog the other day… i have enjoyed reading some of your recent posts. I made your enchirito receipe tonight. It was delicious. My husband wants me to make it again soon and my two girls thought it was great, everything got eaten and that says a lot. Thanks for sharing the receipe, it will definitely go into our rotation of meals. 🙂

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