Down in the Southern Hemisphere we’re right in the middle of winter, so I’m on my annual soup binge. Fortunately soup is so cheap to make that it almost makes up for my winter power bills! I make four big servings for around $7 (roughly $6 US). It’s really filling and really good for you too.
This recipe is so simple to make. It cooks for hours, but only takes five minutes to get started, another 15 minutes partway through, and then a couple minutes to adjust the seasoning when you’re ready to eat.
There are a zillion ways to adapt this recipe (which I’ll explain later), but at its most basic it is dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, sugar-free, nut-free; pretty much everything-free except meat. So it’s a great soup for families with multiple allergies, or for when you’re hosting someone and you’re not sure exactly what they can eat.
- 1 onion
- 450g dried split peas
- 4 meaty pork bones (if they don’t have much meat on them grab 5 or 6)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Dice the onion
- Place onion, peas, pork bones, salt and pepper in slow cooker. Cover with water. If you stick your finger down to the peas the water should come up to the first knuckle.
- Choose a heat setting based on how long until you want to eat: 2-4 hours on high, 4-6 hours on medium or 6+ hours on low. You can’t overcook this soup; the longer you let it cook the better. It’ll also make your whole kitchen smell amazing all day if you put it on first thing in the morning.
- Stick a lid on it and let it cook. Check it every half hour or so for drying out. If the peas still look like peas the water needs to be completely covering them. If the peas look like mush then turn the heat down to low and add enough water to keep it a bit runnier than you like your soup.
- An hour before you want to eat, pull out the pork bones and get all the meat off. The longer they’ve been cooking the easier this will be. I like to do this with two forks while it’s still hot, and then I use my hands once they’re cool enough to touch. Basically you’re just pulling and scraping it all off the bone. Slow cooked meat should come off super easy. If you had to cook it on high it might be a little tougher, so use a knife and cut it away if you need to. There’s no wrong way to do this. You just need to make sure there are no bits of bones going back in the pot, and you want to cut or pull the meat into good sized chunks for eating. (I like pretty big bits, but many people prefer it finely shredded so it mixes evenly through the soup.)
- As long as the bones aren’t too hot and there are no little choke-able pieces, this is the part where you earn the eternal love of the resident furchild.
- Throw all the meat back into the soup and give it all a good stir now that the bones aren’t in the way. Top it up with more water if it needs it and turn it down if the peas are mushy (see step 4). Keep cooking.
- During the final part of cooking only top it up with enough water to keep it at the consistency you want.
- Just before serving taste it and throw in a little more salt or pepper if needed. This is also the time to get creative with other seasonings. A big pinch of curry powder is my favourite.
- Feel free to swap the pork bones for a ham hock or bacon hock. Skip the salt.
- Swap the pork for beef, lamb or mutton. I wouldn’t recommend using chicken as the thick soup will hide any little bones that have separated from the carcass.
- As long as you’ve added something else for flavour you could easily make this vegetarian.
- For a heartier flavour, brown the meat and onions in a bit of butter or oil before putting them in the slow cooker.
- Even if you can’t be bothered browning things first, throw in a dollop of butter or a spoonful of oil at the beginning. Fat just makes everything more delicious.
- Swap all or some of the peas for lentils or other legumes. Check their cooking times, and note that some of them need to be soaked first.
- Add a few carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or whatever else is shriveling up in the back of the fridge.
- Cream makes this soup, well, creamier. Replace half the water with milk, cream, or your preferred non-dairy option. Coconut cream is my fave.
- A big squeeze of lemon juice at the end freshens up the flavour, while a good spoonful of chili (flakes, powder, paste, whatever you’ve got) make this extra warming on a cold night.
For those of you who are averse to cooking with meat, I would strongly encourage you to give this a try. Getting the meat off the bones is pretty easy. By the time you’re touching it, it’s cooked, it smells great, and you can stuff bits in your mouth as you go. A pretty good introduction to getting all up in meat’s business.