Smooth Split Pea Barley Soup

Many, but not all tradtions, begin in childhood. Many reflections and memories connect us to food, flavor and smells. Stories abound how our mothers, fathers and grand parents cooked a partifcular way. Often we try to repeat recipes, imagine t astes that have seeped into our minds, heart and DNA!

Split pea soup, not with barley, were a part of my childhood. As I’ve stated in several parts of this book, my mother never cooked, rather, our housekeeper prepared all our foods, supposdely under the direction of my mother. Our maid was Hungarian, and from what I imagine she was frugal, making inexpensive dishes, like stuffed cabbage, and mushroom barley soup with beef bones, not short ribs. Were these dishes suggestions from my mother since she grew-up in a frugal household, her parents not having much money? True, but how did it affect her food choices? But then Mom married a well-to-do man, so she could afford better food. It’s unclear to me who planned or organized ouf meals. I think the foods were a combination of high end meals – steaks and chops- plus down-to earth Eastern European dishes since Mom and Dad’s families can be traced to Germany and Poland. As a child I never questioned food that I ate, I just enjoyed it all!

This soup is my creation with tweaks from cookbooks and what techniques and skills I’ve liked and learned after half a century of cooking. This dish was mostly cooked in a slow cooker. but still, I love to make sofrito. I enjoy sauteeing carrots, celery and onions until they’re tender and translucent. The pureeing part at the end of this recipe has been new to me this last decade since earlier I use to just cook vegetable soups in a big pot until the veggies were soft. But I do prefer using a blender and making the ingredients silky smooth, with a dollop of half and half or sour cream!


3 Tbsp vegetable oil

3 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

2 medium onion, chopped

1/2 green or red pepper, chopped (optional)

3 garlic cloves, minced

5 cups chicken broth

5 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 lb. dried split peas

3/4 cup pearl barley, not quick cooking

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 thick slice ham steak

1-2 tsp. seasoning sauce or worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup half and half, divided


1 In a large frying pan heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the carrots, celery and onion, and cook for 10-15 minutes on medium low until they are tender and translucent. Sprinkle on salt and pepper and the seasoning sauce or worchestershire sauce. Add the garlic and cook on low for 1-2 minutes and do not let the garlic burn. Turn off the heat and set this aside.

2 In a large slow cooker, add the raw peas and barley to the bottom of the cooker. Add the ham steak, cut in 3 or 4 pieces. Next spread out all the cooked vegetables on top of the peas, barley and ham. Add more salt and pepper. Pour on both liquids.

3 Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Check once or twice to see how tender the peas and barley are. You may need to add a bit more time or add more liquid since barley soaks up water a lot. You want the peas and barley to be soft.

4 Cool slightly, add all ingredients, but the ham, and bay leaves, to a large pot. Using an immersion blender, soften everything to t he consisntency you like. Add half of the half and half, and stir it in. Perhaps leave about 10 percent of the mixture unblended. Add the ham back in.

5 Heat the soup on low for a few minutes, add the lemon juice as you stir in the r est of the half and half, or leave it out if you prefer a less rich soup.


  • For a thinner soup, add more liquid.
  • Take note: You’ll probably need to add more seasoning, meaning salt and pepper, and maybe more seasoning salt or worcestershire sauce.
  • Leave out the ham for a vegetarian dish, and also use vegetable stock.

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