A warming bowl

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A warming bowl

Split Pea Soup

Isestrasse Market Hamburg, Germany
Split pea soup is just what you need when the chill goes right through your coat. In the port city of Hamburg last month, it was sunny but cold as I walked through the Isestrasse market in the center of town. German markets in winter boast stands brimming with every variety of cabbage and potato imaginable. There are mobile bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, sausage sellers, and among them, all kinds of eateries. These hearty folks aren’t fair-weather vendors, I decided, so I wandered around until I found lunch. I wanted what two bundled up ladies were eating: big bowlfuls of steaming split pea soup laden with plenty of slices of knockwurst in the thick porridge. I approached the counter and used my sparse knowledge of Yiddish to ask for a bowl. That produced lots of laughing from the beefy proprietor, but no soup. I wanted soup and I was sure he would sell me some, if only he understood what I was after. I knew I shouldn’t point, but point I did – at the women and their lunch. Success. I took my bowl and settled in beside them, standing in the bracing cold coming off the Baltic Sea, with my bowl set in front of me on a high bistro table. I sipped spoonfuls of the thick, nourishing mixture. The green puree, with its hammy stock and smoked wurst, also had nuggets of sweet carrots. A piece of crusty bread helped soak up every last bit.

Split pea soup
Serves 6

The flavor of this soup improves on standing, but it thickens. To make a day or two in advance, stir water, about 1/4 cup at a time, into the soup before reheating.

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound frankfurters or knockwurst, cut into 2-inch slices
1 smoked ham hock ( 1/2 pound) 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound dried split peas 6 cups water, or more if necessary
3 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the frankfurter or wurst slices and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pan; set it aside.

2. Add the ham hock and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes more, to brown the hock on all sides. Remove it from the pan.

3. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the split peas, and stir to coat them with the oil. Return the ham hock to the pan.

4. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook the mixture for 10 minutes on medium heat. Remove the lid and use a spoon to skim the foam from the surface of the soup.

5. Reduce the heat to low and add the carrots. Place the cover slightly askew on the pot and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the soup from burning on the bottom as it thickens.

6. Remove the lid and add the frankfurter slices. Simmer for 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally, or until the split peas have dissolved into a smooth thick puree.

7. Remove the ham hock and set the meat aside. When it is cool enough to handle, trim the fat from the bone. Cut the meat into strips. Add them to the soup with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and ladle the soup into bowls.

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