A hearty soup for cooler weather
(updated 12/2018) Autumn has officially started for us northern hemisphere dwellers. And cooler weather makes many of us crave hearty soups. So this is soup week on Kitchen Riffs!
We’ll be presenting two new soups this week. Today’s is Black-Eyed Pea and Cabbage Soup. Later this week, we’ll do Leek and Potato Soup, a classic favorite.
This post was originally posted as a guest post on Cafe Terra, a friend's blog that no longer exists (Terra has become a successful author of romance novels, so that's where she's spending her time). So that the recipe isn't lost, we're posting it here.
Black-eyed peas and cabbage both combine well with ham, so we’re preparing this soup with a quick ham stock made from ham shanks (making it this way takes less time than the traditional ham-bone method). If ham doesn’t appeal, you could easily skip this part and instead substitute poultry, beef, or vegetable stock.
Black-eyed peas don’t require soaking (unlike most beans and legumes). They cook reasonably quickly and are already plenty tender. They’ll cook in an hour and a half or so (maybe a bit longer if they’re very old). That gives you just enough time to simmer them with the ham shanks and make a nice broth.
Depending on how thick you make this soup (i.e., how much water you add), this recipe makes 4 to 5 quarts — which is quite a bit. But leftovers freeze well, and you get several future meals from it.
This dish requires about 1½ hours total; active prep time is 20 to 30 minutes.
- 1 - 2 smoked ham shanks or hocks (about a pound; a little more or less is fine)
- ~12 cups water
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
- 1 teaspoon salt (optional; see Notes)
- 1 medium onion (red adds nice color, but any kind will do)
- 2 carrots
- 4 - 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or thinly sliced
- 1 - 1½ pounds cabbage
- 1 - 1½ pounds potatoes (more or less; about the same quantity as the cabbage)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or neutral cooking coil
- additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1½ teaspoons dried thyme (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional; if you like spicy, you might want to double)
- 1 - 2 tablespoons ham base (very optional; see Notes)
- Rinse ham shanks or hocks and put in a large stock pot or Dutch oven (one that holds at least 6 quarts). Add 12 cups water.
- Place pot on high heat and bring to a boil.
- While the water is heating, pick over black-eyed peas to remove any dirt or stones. Rinse and add to the pot with the optional 1 teaspoon salt (see Notes).
- When water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and skim any scum that forms. Simmer for 1 hour.
- While the stock simmers, peel onion and mince into ½-inch dice. Wash and peel the carrots, and cut into small dice, half-rounds, or rounds (whichever shape you prefer). Peel garlic and mince fine. Clean and core the cabbage; cut cabbage into thin strips (½ inch or less) or shred.
- Scrub, peel, and cut potatoes into dice of ½ inch; cover with cold water so they don’t discolor.
- At the hour mark, check the black-eyed peas to see whether they’re getting tender. If they’re not, cook another few minutes. If they are almost tender (they should be), heat a skillet on medium until it’s hot.
- When hot, add the oil to the skillet. When the oil is heated (it’ll take just seconds; you’ll see the oil shimmer or ripple), add the minced onion, carrots, and garlic; stir and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until the onion is translucent (5 to 8 minutes).
- Once the onion is translucent, add the thyme and optional red pepper flakes, and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the mixture to the pot.
- Fish out the ham shank and set aside to cool for a few minutes, and add the cabbage. Drain the potatoes and add them as well. Set the timer for 20 minutes.
- Right now is the time to taste the stock and adjust seasoning; and add more water if necessary to achieve the consistency you prefer (I usually need to add another 2 cups or so). If the flavor of the stock isn’t as strong as you’d like, this would be the point where you could add a little ham base (see Notes).
- Once the ham shank is cool enough to handle (5 minutes), bone it and cut meat into small dice (you may want to discard the fat). Add the boned meat to the pot. Taste again and adjust seasoning.
- If you want a less chunky, more homogenized texture to your soup, this would be a good time to use a stick blender to puree it (see Note).
- When the timer goes off, check to see whether the black-eyed peas are done. If they are (they should be), the soup is ready to serve. If not, cook a few more minutes until they are done to your taste.
- The ham shank should give your broth a nice ham flavor. But if you want to up the flavor quotient, in Step 10 you could add a tablespoon or two of ham base (commercially prepared ham stock that’s been reduced to a paste). I usually buy the “Better than Bouillon” brand, which many supermarkets carry. But other brands also have good flavor and work well.
- If you want a particularly flavorful broth, you can simmer the ham shank with the water for half an hour before you add the black-eyed peas. You could also add a peeled onion that’s been cut in half, and several cloves of peeled garlic to help flavor the stock. (Fish out the onion halves when you remove the ham shank in Step 9.)
- I don’t think celery adds much to this soup, but if you have some on hand and crave its flavor, by all means dice some up and add it to the onions and carrots in Step 7.
- I suggest adding salt in Step 3; its purpose is to help season the black-eyed peas. Some people don’t add salt to dried legumes until they’re nearly cooked because they think it makes them tough and they’ll take longer to cook. If you’re of that camp — or just don’t want too much added salt — you can taste the stock after it’s cooked for an hour (Step 6), and add some salt then if you think necessary.
- Although most of the cooking on this dish takes place unattended, you do need to check on the pot from time to time. So this is a good recipe to make on a day when you’re around the house — perhaps on a weekend.
- If you use a stick blender to puree your soup in Step 12, use one with a metal shaft. Plastics shafts can crack (ask me how I know!).
- As noted, this soup freezes quite well. You can take this from the freezer, put it in a saucepan with a bit of water, and be eating soup in about 20 minutes or so. When reheating, you’ll want to watch the pot a bit after the first 5 minutes so the soup doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan. Just stir it from time to time to prevent this.
- If you want a garnish for the soup, chopped parsley or croutons would be nice.
You may also be interested in reading about:
White Bean and Potato Soup
Black-Eyed Pea and Collard Green Soup
Bean and Cabbage Soup
Tuscan Bean Soup
Easy Lentil Soup
Split Pea Soup with Greens
Split Pea Soup with Bacon
Curried Cauliflower Soup
Sweet Potato Soup with Chilies and Corn
Soupe au Pistou
Sweet Potato Chili with Black Beans