Additive-free Split Pea and Corned Beef Soup (and why it matters)
Soup is the perfect meal to serve on a wintery day.
And in our house, we eat soup at least once a week because it’s such an easy meal to prepare, and it’s a sure-fire way to fill hungry tummies.
One of the soups we used to make frequently is the good old Pea and Ham Soup.
Peas are traditionally paired with pork (in the form of ham or bacon) to produce this well-known, delicious, hearty soup.
However, the dilemma we faced is that processed meats, such as bacon and ham, commonly contain artificial nitrites and nitrates. And we’re striving to avoid these in our foods as much as we can (see below for why). But it’s almost impossible to find organic bacon hocks (without artificial additives) where we live.
Therefore, we had 2 options – find another soup recipe to fall in love with, or resort to a less-than-tasty substitute.
Actually, it turned out we had a 3rd option (and it turned out to be the best one of all).
We found the perfect ingredient to replace the ham …. and it was found right there in our freezer.
Naturally-brined corned beef 🙂
In fact, it’s such a marvellous idea that it’s shameful we didn’t think of it before!
Because corned beef has a similar salty, almost smoky flavour to ham and bacon, the overall result is pretty close to the traditional version (but without the additives!).
Hurrah! This beloved soup was now back on our menu.
What’s to love about this soup?
- It’s naturally gluten and dairy-free
- It’s nourishing, thanks to the resistant starch and protein in the split peas
- It’s a sure crowd pleaser, and works really well for guests and taking a shared meal to an event
- It’s relatively quick to make (except for the time it takes to soak the split peas)
- There are no cumbersome vegies to chop, and no meat to brown
- It features a few wintery vegies that always reside in our fridge
- The ingredients can be dumped unceremoniously into the stockpot (or slow cooker) to simmer away quietly for an hour or so
- It freezes and reheats well.
And so, when we took the original recipe and adapted it to feature corned beef instead of bacon hocks, it ticked even more boxes:
- It’s now additive-free because we know the ingredients used to produce the corned beef (our wonderful butcher uses a natural brine that’s a mixture of salt, spices and coconut sugar)
- It successfully re-purposes small amounts of leftover corned beef
- It uses something that is typically thrown away (the broth the corned beef is cooked in).
Do your family enjoy Pea and Ham soup? We hope we’ve inspired you to soak some split peas to make this soup tomorrow 😊
Nourishing Additive-free Split Pea and Corned Beef Soup
- 1 ½ cups dried green or yellow split peas
- Good pinch sodi bicarb
- 2 onions, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 3 large carrots, diced
- 2 – 2.5 L reserved corned beef broth (see note)
- Several slices pre-cooked corned beef, diced (see note)
- Cracked black pepper
- 1 – 2 tbsp tamari or coconut aminos
- 1 – 2 tsp lemon juice
- Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped – optional
- Spread split peas out on a shallow baking tray and remove any small stones or clumps of dirt.
- Place split peas and sodi bicarb in a large stockpot (8 – 10L) and cover with warm water til level is several inches above the peas.
- Soak the split peas overnight.
- Strain and rinse them very well (in a sieve under running water).
- Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and broth to the split peas in the stockpot.
- Bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. During cooking you may notice a foamy scum on the top of the liquid. If so, skim it from the top.
- Simmer for an hour, making sure you stir it frequently so it doesn’t catch on the bottom. (Split peas absorb lots of liquid, so check the soup often, and add liquid as needed).
- Add diced corned beef, black pepper, tamari and lemon juice. Taste soup before adding any sea salt, especially if using corned beef broth as this is already salty.
- Simmer for a further 5 – 10 minutes, or until the corned beef is heated through.
- If you like soup with ‘bite’, you only need to wait til the split peas are tender. But if you prefer a smoother, creamier texture, simmer for an additional 20 – 30 minutes until peas are very soft and mushy, and the soup has thickened considerably.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired, and serve with crusty sourdough bread.
Serves: 6 – 8
- In an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
- In our opinion, this soup tastes better the next day – the perfect reason to double the recipe, and have a night off cooking later in the week.
- This soup thickens considerably on standing, so you may need to add more broth or water when reheating.
Why it Matters that Processed Meats are Additive-free
This is such a huuuuuge area to address.
So much so, that we felt deserved it’s very own blog post!
In our 5th edition of Meaty Morsels, we answer a number of curly questions such as:
- What are the artificial additives commonly found in processed meats?
- Why are these additives are used?
- Why is it best to avoid them?
- What are some healthy and alternatives to processed meats?
And we give you a glimpse into our journey into reducing processed meats (and how our children are responding!).
We’d love to share with you what we’ve learned over the past few years, so we encourage you to take a moment to read the Meaty Morsels post here.
- Although it involves planning ahead and takes additional time, we recommend soaking the split peas. Not only does it give the peas a rinse, it speeds up the cooking time, and helps aid digestion. Most legumes have complex sugars, that when digested, cause flatulence. Soaking helps remove some of this excess sugar. According to Jacqueline from Deep Roots at Home “bubble scum that forms on the soaking split peas is the gas formed in our gut when we consume them un-soaked”. That’s reason enough for us to always soak our beans and pulses.
- Adding sodi bicarb to the soaking water makes the water slightly alkaline and is especially helpful if you’ve got ‘hard’ water. The addition of sodi bicarb helps speed the softening of the split peas by and making them more permeable to water. But while it may speed cooking, it has negative impacts on nutrition, especially thiamine and riboflavin (source and source). This is why we suggest just using a pinch of sodi bicarb. See here for a more in depth discussion about what sodi bicarb does to foods.
- The salty, smoky flavour in this soup is achieved by using the reserved cooking water (broth) from a corned beef roast. Please don’t use the broth from commercially available corned beef. Instead, substitute other types of broth, or water if you don’t have any naturally-brined corned beef broth. Taste towards the end of cooking, as it’s likely you’ll need to add more salt.
- If you don’t have access to a reliable source of naturally-brined meat, use diced roast beef or lamb. The flavour will be different, but you won’t be eating questionable additives.
- The foamy scum that forms on the top during the initial cooking stage is the natural starch from the peas. Many prefer to remove it because the foam, when incorporated, makes the soup cloudy. This doesn’t affect the appearance of an opaque soup like split pea soup though. You can just stir or blend the foam in if you’d rather not worry about skimming it off.
- Add whatever amount of diced corned beef you have on hand. For this quantity of soup, we’d suggest approx. 300g – 500g.
- Pea and Ham soup is notorious for sticking to the bottom of the pot – regardless of the pot’s quality. Why is this so? With heat, the starch and protein from the soup begin to bond with the base of the pot. And because split peas contain decent amounts of resistant starch and protein, you bet they’re going to stick on the bottom of your pot. This problem can be avoided by:
- Using a stockpot with the heaviest base to help distribute the heat evently.
- Cooking at a simmer. Use a heat mat if your stove isn’t capable of a very low heat.
- Ensuring there is enough liquid in the pot.
- Stirring frequently.
And if your soup does catch on the bottom, it’s OK. You’ve created a type of fond (French for “base”, and commonly refers to the browned bits that chef’s use to build flavour. While it’s technically not fond, it’s still very flavoursome (provided it’s not burnt).
- This soup has a tendency to splatter. Be careful when removing the lid to stir or serve.
- Prefer to make this in a slow cooker? Simply soak split peas as in Step 1, and then place remaining ingredients into a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours.
Did you know?
Split green peas are also known as field peas – the very same plant we grow at ‘Border Park’ for fixing nitrogen in our paddocks, and that’s part of our pasture mix that we grow for our sheep and cattle to graze on!
Recipe Credit: Based on this recipe from Well Nourished