The Holland saga continues – time for some Dutch cuisine again! This time it’s actually so delicious that you’ll never believe it. Even a bunch of Italians liked it, so it must have been good. On today’s menu: pea soup, or snert.
Dishes world-wide have a tendency to be named in a rather unflattering manner. Think of such famous dishes as spotted dick, cock-a-leekie, toad-in-the-hole – none of them sound particularly appetising, do they? Well, the Dutch take this tendency to extremes, and one of its unfortunate results, among many, is snert, which can actually also be used as an adjectival prefix in Dutch to express how shitty something is. Like, for example, if it’s raining and you can’t be bothered going out, you’d give the ‘snertweer’ or shitty weather as a reason.
But don’t let the funky name put you off, the soup is totally delicious. In fact, the snert that I made last weekend was so delicious, that people kept asking me “So is this really Dutch?”. You know, as if something this good could never possibly come from a culinary wasteland like the Netherlands. Yes, it really is Dutch. In fact, it’s arguably the most quintessentially Dutch dish in existence.
Imagine the scene: canals and ponds frozen over, children with ice skates bound under their feet screaming with glee, the littlest ones learning by holding the back rest of a chair and pushing it forward on the ice… the perfect Pieter Bruegel picture. And guess what, this picture isn’t complete without some lumpen character selling pea soup from a wee stand somewhere near the ice! Go to a Christmas market, an ice skating race or anything that’s outside between November and March, really, and you’ll probably find someone who’s selling snert there.
What sort of surprised me when I was making this pea soup is that, while I was expecting it to be the kind of poor man’s soup that the Dutch kitchen is so famous for, it was actually sort of expensive to make. Turns out that the split peas that you need for this soup are only available in funky health stores now, and they charge, like, a million euros per kilo. There’s also an obscene amount of pork involved in making this soup, so that’s an extra cost. Then again, I made six litres in one go, so I may have been exaggerating it a little bit. For two litres the price will probably end up somewhere around 7 euros, which isn’t actually too bad, considering it’s filling as all Hell.
Two litres of soup will require:
- 300-400 gr green split peas – depending on how thick you like it, 300 gr will give you a liquid soup, where 400 gr will be closer to porridge consistency
- 400 gr pork ribs
- 2 potatoes
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 2 small leeks
- one smoked sausage
One of the most essential and traditional and indispensable ingredients is celeriac, apparently. They don’t sell celeriac in Italy so I didn’t use any and my soup tasted exactly like all of the snert I’ve ever eaten in my life. Up to you.
So, first of all, pre-soak your peas a bit, half an hour or more. Now drain and rinse a little bit more, maybe, they tend to be a bit dusty. Chuck them in a big-ass pot with the ribs and two litres of water. Add some salt, too. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low to medium heat for as long as it takes (which will be a couple of hours).
In the meantime, peel your potatoes, carrots and onions and chop them into small cubes. Cut your leeks into rings and wash them. Chuck all of the vegetables in about one hour into cooking the soup.
After a couple of hours from first bringing the peas and meat to a boil, the meat should be cooked and the peas disintegrated. Fish out the meat, pull it off the bones (you can chuck those out now), chop it up and throw it back into the pot. Also slice up the smoked sausage and add it to the concoction.
Now here’s the deal with this soup: it becomes tastier the longer you leave it. You can simmer it for another hour or so, then eat it, or you can turn it off, leave it overnight, and heat it up the next day! And the next, and then the next. Maybe not with this quantity. But quality-wise, you’d be grand. Enjoy!