This authentic Dutch split pea soup, also known as erwtensoep, or snert, is typically made from dried green split peas (not fresh green peas!), lots of winter-y (root) vegetables, and a load of fatty and/or smoked pork products – it is a quintessential winter dish after all. While it might not look, or sound (snert snert) particularly appetizing, this hearty, robust soup is definitely delicious, comforting and filling enough to help you endure the Dutch winter season’s cold weather (or anywhere else).
Being a very typical Dutch dish – vegetables, potatoes and meat mashed together and cooked for hours – apart from being a home cooked staple, you will often find this soup sold pre-packaged in supermarkets, scooped out of large steaming pots on road-side stalls and ice-skating rinks (or natural ice skating places, if winter is especially cold), or made by your local cafés and food shops during the winter season.
When I was little, we would regularly eat snert made by our local butcher, which he made in large quantities and sold frozen in large blocks. We would often eat it fresh, though, since the butchers was just across the street from our house. When the butcher’s shop windows would be all fogged up on a cold day, my dad knew it was time to haul over a large pot to the shop to get some of that freshly made good stuff full of sausage, smoked pork belly and dubious chunks of fatty meat (the latter of which slowly started disappearing from the soup as people got more health-conscious, which made my dad very disappointed).
True erwtensoep-enthusiasts would say that Dutch pea soup can only really be called snert when it contains a good selection of either fresh and/or smoked pork with the most popular choices being krabbetjes (baby back-ribs / spareribs), pork chops, ham hocks, or the more traditional pig’s trotters, and gerookt spek (salted and smoked pork belly), or rookworst (a Dutch smoked pork sausage) and, more importantly, when it has been prepared a day before actually eating it. What? Yeah. I’m not exactly sure why this ‘rule’ exists apart from the fact that soups and stews always taste better the next day. Additionally, a day-old pea soup full of fatty, collagen-rich meat will be substantially thicker and more porridge-like than soup-like, which, according to real snert aficionados, is exactly how it should be; a good Dutch pea soup should be thick enough for a wooden cooking spoon to remain upright in the middle of the pot!
Having said that, I don’t always have the patience to cook a delicious soup for several hours and not eat it immediately, so I usually do… Luckily there are always enough leftovers for the next day!
Tip #1: Should you want to save this soup for the next day(s), make sure you try to cool it as quickly as possible. Depending on the temperature in your house, this thick soup can turn sour quickly. If you can’t get the soup to go cold enough to put it in the refrigerator within 2 hours, consider dividing it over two pans, or several containers.
Dutch Split Pea Soup / Hollandse Erwtensoep (Snert)
- 200g piece of smoky bacon, whole
- 1 pig’s trotter (foot), can be substituted for some spareribs or a pork chop
- 500g dried split peas
- 2 bay leaves
- 2.5l water, or more if needed
- 1 large thick leek
- 1 large onion
- 1 thick winter carrot
- ½ celery root
- 2 potatoes
- 1 Dutch Rookworst (Dutch smoked pork sausage), can be substituted for Frankfurters
- Small bunch of celery leaves, finely chopped
- ½ tablespoon salt, or more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Optional sides:
- Fries roggebrood (Frysian rye bread)
- Katenspek (Boiled smoked belly bacon)
- Rinse the split peas very well under running water, then bring them to a boil in a large pot together with 2.5 liters of water, the bacon (kept whole), the pig’s trotter and the bay leaves. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer on low heat for 60 minutes. Skim off the foam occasionally.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables: Cut the leek in half and cut into half-rings. Rinse cut leek under cold water to remove sand. Peel the onion, carrot, potato and celery root and dice all (not too finely).
- Cut the meat: After the soup has simmered for 60 minutes, scoop the pig’s foot and bacon out of the pot. Leave to cool slightly, then cut the bacon into cubes and cut/pluck the edible parts of meat off of the pig’s trotter and shred slightly.
- Return the pork back to the pot and add all the other diced vegetables and potatoes, except for the celery leaves.
- Leave to boil again: Leave the soup to simmer covered with the lid for another 1½ hours, stirring occasionally, until the peas have totally disintegrated and the vegetables are turning very soft and start to disintegrate as well.
- Heat the smoked sausage: When the soup is done cooking and the split peas have disintegrated, heat the smoky sausage in the pan with the pea soup for 15 minutes. Keep the lid off to allow the soup to start thickening more.
- Remove the sausage from the soup, cut into slices and stir it back into the soup.
- Finally, stir in the finely chopped celery leaves and season soup with salt and pepper. Leave soup to simmer uncovered on low heat for a final 15 minutes, or longer if it’s not thick enough*.
- Serve hot. This soup can be served with Frysian rye bread with katenspek (a type of boiled smoked bacon) on the side.