Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go. —Anthony Bourdain
Rooted in the days of New France, this humble, nourishing soup is an accolade to the spirit and tenacity of the French Canadian people. It goes by many names—soupe aux pois, habitant soup, Québec pea soup or French Canadian pea soup. Certainly, it has evolved over the years into versions each family calls their own. Long after the 1763 Treaty of Paris and The Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the political presence of France in the New World remains through the descendants of her settlers and the cuisine they contrived into their own. In the cookbook “La Cuisine Traditionnelle de Charlevoix” by Micheline Mongrain-Dontigny, soupe aux pois is made with not much more than dry peas, salted pork and onions. My husband’s family’s version includes carrots and celery but can’t be made without ham hock, I was told. But it’s the version of Aube Giroux that we’ve adapted anyways. She even gives permission to make it without any meat and it can easily be made vegan by substituting the butter with olive oil. One thing for sure, with or without the meat, vegan or not, this is good soup— a classic, a staple, sacred here in Canada for a reason.I prefer using whole peas instead of the split version. Above, is a photo of the peas after they have been soaked overnight.
A Vegetarian Version of French Canadian Yellow Pea Soup
(yields 8-10 servings)
- 400 g (2 cups) whole yellow dry peas
- 220 g carrots, finely sliced
- 150 g celery, finely sliced
- 220 g leek , sliced
- 200 g onion, diced
- 60 g unsalted butter (or olive oil for vegan version)
- 2 litres vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 tbsp sea salt (or to taste)
- pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional)
- Wash and set peas to soak overnight in a large bowl with plenty of cold water. When ready to use, drain and rinse.
- Melt butter in a large pot (I use 5.4 L).
- Add leeks and onions and cook a few minutes to soften.
- Add carrots, celery, peas, stock, bay leaves and salt and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to the lowest setting possible and continue to cook covered at a low simmer for about 3 hours, until the peas are completely cooked (and yes, the vegetables will be overcooked!). Stir occasionally during cooking and add water if necessary but keep in mind the soup should be thick in consistency.
- Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve with fresh chopped parsley.