Soupe Aux Pois - מרק אפונה קוויבק
I was lucky enough to spend my last semester as an undergraduate, at Université Laval in Ville de Québec (Quebec City). It was a magical time. I had no money but the food was good (and cheap) and the music in the cafes and bars was free for the price of a coffee or a beer.
I had a room on campus but went into Vieux-Québec (the Old City) everynight with friends I had met during my stay. We would joke about the bad food at the university cafeteria and look forward to eating in some small place and trying desperately to understand the Québecois accent. Our French wasn't bad. The locals understood what we said, but we had no idea what they said back to us. Somehow we managed.
Occasionally, however we found ourselves in the cafeteria where the most popular dish was poulet-frites (chicken and fries). It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great and it was expensive given the amount of money I had to spend. So sometimes I would resort to eating out of the vending machine. I could get a beer - Cinquante (Labatt's 50) and a ready to eat can of Soupe aux Pois with the familiar yellow label of the the Habitant brand. It was salty and filling and the 1970's equivalent to ramen on campuses today.
Near the end of our time in Québec we decided as a group to splurge and go to a "sit down" restaurant, one with tables and not just bar stools. It was a great night with music and dancing and a couple of old men with no teeth, playing the spoons. I could have ordered something upscale like escargot or oysters (they were on the menu) but I chose to order the Soupe aux Pois, knowing that I this may be my last chance for a long time, to enjoy the real thing.
It did not disappoint.
For years I have looked for the dried yellow peas that are used in this soup. I don't live in France or Québec where they are probably very ordinary and easily found. But to me they became a sort of Holy Grail.
Two years ago in March, Ken and I and the boys went to Canada for a bar mitzvah in Ottawa. We planned the trip so that we would have a few days in Montreal before and after the event. The afternoon before we left it was rainy and cold and not fun to be outside but we decided to go to Jean Talon Farmers Market. There, sitting on a table in stall with homemade pine furniture and fruit preserves, was a bag of dried, whole yellow peas.
I bought them.
Traditional Soupe aux Pois is made with salt pork. It gives the soup flavor and depth. I have never used salt pork in my recipes but I have eaten it many times. Over the years I have found that for my palate, it is too strong and dominantes the other ingredients. I have chosen to go the "herbs for flavor" path. Hope you enjoy this recipe. It was many years in the making.
BTs Meatless Soupe aux Pois
1 and 1/2 cups (180 grams) whole yellow dried peas
2 large onions
1 small leek
3 large carrots
2 tablespoons ghee, coconut or vegetable oil
1 small medium hot chili
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) mustard seeds
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon (4 grams) french dried thyme
2 teaspoons (8 grams) marjoram
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) loveage
1/8 teaspoon (.5 gram) ground cloves
1 large bayleaf
8 cups (1.9 l) filtered water
Black ground pepper
Wash peas thoroughly and place in bowl with enough water to cover them completely. Soak peas overnight or for at least 6 hours
Wash leeks and cut into small pieces
Chop onions into small pieces
Chop chili into very small pieces including ribs and seeds
Into a heavy gauge pot add fat and turn heat on medium
Add mustard seeds
Cook mustard seeds until they begin to pop - approximately 90 seconds
Add chili and continue to cook 1 minute
Turn heat down to medium low and add leeks and onions and cook until onion are translucent
Add salt, pepper and cloves and stir for about a minute
Add marjoram, dried thyme and lovage and stir for a minute
Add water, carrots and peas
Bring water up to boil
Add bay leaf and fresh thyme
Reduce heat to very low and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Check the soup every hour to make sure there is adequate liquid. If more liquid is need, added half a cup at a time
Soup is done when the peas are soft but still maintain their shape
Remove bay leaf and thyme
Soup can be served with garlic bread or croutons. Shown below with goat yogurt and chili sauce