Erwtensoep, aka Snert, aka Dutch Pea Soup

In which I learn that chatting, drinking and cooking don’t always mix.

I’m Dutch. Well,  I’m mostly Frisian. Well, actually I’m Canadian, born to mostly Frisian parents who emigrated to Ontario in the early 1950’s. In spite of my heritage, I’ve never cooked any proper Dutch food, although I have many happy memories of pea soup and kaiser buns on wintry Saturday evenings as a kid.

One of my Dutch-Canadian friends is quite the cook, and emailed me his favourite Dutch Pea Soup recipe. We conspired to meet up at my place and make the soup together – I was a bit sqeamish about the pig’s ear and trotter the recipe calls for. Dave showed up with his big soup pot, Dutch cookbook, and various necessary pig parts (along with adding flavour, rendering the collagen thickens the soup).

Dave’s bounty
Necessary pig parts
simmering away

The conversation and beer flowed freely, and although this post was originally going to be about getting back to my roots and the macabre aspect of cooking with recognizable portions of pig, I learned other valuable lessons that day.

1. It takes a cook with more experience than I have to chat/gossip while cooking.

2. It takes a cook with more alcohol tolerance than I have to drink while cooking.

3. If something smells like it’s burning, it probably is.

4. Taste before adding salt.

Prep done, salt added and soup simmering, Dave and I moved into full conversation mode. His partner, Paul asked “is something burning?”, which was immediately pooh-poohed by Dave and I.

Finally ready, we served the soup, thick enough to stand a spoon upright. Dave and I quietly noticed that the entire bottom of the pot was caked with burned soup. No matter, we just scooped a little more carefully to make sure we didn’t dislodge the burnt bits. As we began to eat, silence fell over the table. I have never eaten anything so salty before in my life. I was in the process of choking down my own first bite when Paul sputtered “I can’t eat this!”

So, for our triumphant batch of soup, not so much. All that planning, sourcing ingredients, imagining if it would be as good as the soups of my childhood…and all I got was a good laugh.

The only thing that Dave and I could figure out was that we both must have added salt without checking with each other (too many cooks syndrome) and that there must be a typo in the original recipe, which seems to call for three tablespoons of salt. We’ve tried it since, with much less salt and more attention paid to the heat level, and it was delicious!

Dave’s email for ERWTENSOEP:

2 cups split green peas (dried)
2.8 L water
1 pig’s trotter, 1 pig’s ear (you need these to thicken the broth with the natural gelatin, you can find them at a Portuguese butcher)
1 cup bacon squares ( I use about for strips cut up, I tried butcher cut squares but I found it kinda’ gross)
4 frankfurters (sometimes I use the sometimes I don’t)
1 Lb potatoes
1 celeriac ( it’s worth finding, usually at an independent produce vender)
1 bunch celery greens ( leafs, sometimes found attached to the celeriac, again worth the search)
2 leeks, 2 onions
3 table spoons of salt (yes it seems like a lot but necessary)

Wash the peas, soak for 12 hours (unless you use quick cooking peas which is more common and is what I use) and boil gently in the water they were soaked in for at least 2 hours. Cook in this liquid the trotter, the ear and the bacon for one hour. and the potatoes (diced), salt, celeriac (pealed and diced), cut up leeks, and chopped up celery greens. Cook until smooth and thick.

I usually take OUT the pig’s ear and trotter before adding the veg.

Add the frankfurters in the last 10 minutes (again optional)

The longer the soup simmers the better, usually about 3-4 hours.


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