English Pea Soup

Monday 4 January 2021

London Particular is a delicious Split Pea Soup!  The name comes from the famous fogs of London back in Dickensian times, which came to be known as London Particulars or Pea Soup Fogs. 
Fogs which were so thick that you could scarce see your hand in front of your face. They would be blinding and very heard to breathe in.

From Wikepedia: Pea soup fog (also known as a pea souper, black fog or killer fog) is a very thick and often yellowish, greenish or blackish fog caused by air pollution that contains soot particulates and the poisonous gas sulphur dioxide. 

Not just common in Dickens's day these heavy fogs continued sporadically throughout the ensuing years.  In fact there was a particularly bad incident  in 1952 which was called "The Great Smog of London,"  which came to be known as one of the worst air-pollution events in the history of  the United Kingdom.

I think actually fogs such as this were quite prevalent throughout Europe, especially in the colder months when people were using their coal fires. My mother had a photograph of me standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1959.  
You can just barely see me and only the feet of the tower as the fog is so dense and so thick. I dare say those "Pea Souper" fogs were not as near delicious as this fabulous soup, London Particular.

This is a soup which had its beginnings at the Simpson's in the Strand restaurant in London.  It is a soup which is rib-stickingly thick and very delicious, and really quite simple to make!

My mother always made us lovely pots of pea soup after we had enjoyed a baked ham either for New Years or Easter.  This is something we all really looked forward to.
Mom  always baked a ham on those special occasions for out dinner.  It was a family tradition which we hold to this day.  Aferwards the bone was always used to make a delicious soup.

Hers was done in the French Canadian style however, using whole yellow dried peas.  They are not so easy to get these days, but used to be very common. 
We all loved my mother's soup.  She would make a huge pot of it. We would enjoy it once on the night it was made, and the remainder would be frozen for a future date.

Always whenever any of us (after we had grown up and left home) made the trip home, one of the things we could count on was mom feeding us some of her soup. She would be certain to feed us a supper of this soup and another of her home baked beans at least once during our stay. 
I can't speak for anyone else, but for myself  I can say that this was something I always looked forward to and enjoyed very much. Even now there is a part of me that longs for a hot bowl of  mom's soup.

This is not my mother's soup. It is quite hard to achieve perfection such as that in my opinion.  Cooking memories are only ever very rarely able to be actually created and taste the same or to be as delicious as the memory of them are. Why is that? 
Not the same, but this soup is just as delicious in a different sort of a way.  Its thick and flavourful  . . . and as I said, very simple to make.

You do need to begin by soaking the peas over night, so be prepared, you will need to do this in advance of making the soup.
 Once you have done that, however, the soup comes together very quickly. Very quickly indeed.

If you are lucky enough to have homemade ham stock in the freezer you may use that.  I never saw ham being sold on the bone when I was in the UK.  I am sure it existed, but I just never saw it.
Its quite possible that I could have gotten one from a good butcher.  Because of this,  I  never had a ham bone over there to make a stock with. Instead I relied on ham stock cubes. You can also use chicken stock if you wish. 

Other than the split peas and stock, there is bacon, carrots, celery and onions.  That's all.  Its as simple as that.  

Simple ingredients done well. I love it when cooking is like that.  Don't you? In my opinion, with the exception of special occasions, that is as it should be.

As an homage to my dear sweet mother I chose to add a bay leaf and some Nova Scotia Summer Savory. You can leave those out and the soup will still be delicious, but if you have them to hand, I do recommend.  
You could in also use a bit of dried thyme instead of the savory, if you find that impossible to procure.  When I was in the UK, I would bring mine back with me from Nova Scotia when I visited.  I kept it in my freezer.  It was that precious to me.

It takes about an hour and a bit to cook, so not that long really.  Once the peas are nice and tender, you then puree half of the soup.  
I used my immersion blender to do this. I don't know what I would do without one of those. You can also use a food processor or a regular blender, but be very careful.  Hot ingredients expand very quickly when under such pressure.

You need to do it in small batches or your food processor or blender will explode and the lid will pop off.  Doing it in smaller batches gives it room to expand.  Even so I would keep a tea towel pressed down on the lid while I was pureeing it. Don't take any chances.
You then stir the pureed portion of soup back into the pot and reheat the soup gently, seasoning it to taste with salt and plenty of black pepper.  

It is then ready to be served, ladled into heated soup bowls.  I always heat my soup bowls before using them.  It helps to keep your soup hot for longer.
I like to garnish servings of this soup  with clippings of crispy fried bacon and chopped fresh parsley  . . .

  In the UK soups are often enjoyed with a piece or two of buttered bread or an assortment of crusty rolls.  There is nothing wrong wih bread and rolls.
But it is not how I was brought up.  Soup at home always came with crackers.

This how the North American in me prefers my soup.  Accompanied with crisp salted crackers, usually saltines.
I always crumble some of them into the soup.  A "common" practise I know . . .  but a leftover from my childhood.  The heart wants what the heart wants  . . .

Yield: 6

London Particular

So named because of the thick "pea soup" fogs that used to plague the city of London for years and years!  This recipe is adapted from a book I have entitled "Mom's Favourite Recipes," published by Octopus Books.


  • 300g dried green split peas, soaked overnight in cold water (1 1/3 cups)
  • 25g butter (2 TBS)
  • 4 rashers/slices streaky bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 litres of ham or chicken stock (6 cups)
  • 1 bay leaf, broken (optional and my inclusion)
  • 1/2 tsp summer savoury (optional and my inclusion)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
To garnish:
  • a handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 4 rashers/strips of streaky bacon, grilled until crisp and snipped


How to cook London Particular

  1. Drain the peas in a colander and rinse.  Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  When it begins to foam add the bacon and onion.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and the bacon has begun to release it's fat. Add the carrot and celery.  Continue to cook for a further 5 minutes or so until golden.
  2. Add the peas and the stock, along with the bay leaf and savoury, if using.  Bring to the boil, stirring.  Boil rapidly for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.  Reduce to low, cover and then cook for about a hour, until the peas are very tender. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
  3. Cool the soup slightly and then puree half of the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth, or use an immersion blender.  Return to the saucepan and reheat.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. 
  4. Ladle the hot soup into heated bowls, garnishing with parley and bacon.  Serve immediately. Crusty rolls or crackers (my preference) are lovely with this.
Created using The Recipes Generator

When I was a child I would crumble so many crackers into my soup that it became almost pudding-like . . .  I so enjoyed that.  Tomato soup was especially good this way, with a knob of butter melted on top. Oh boy, now I am drowning in happy foodie memories.  Yum! 

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  1. Oh yes, please! It's cold and wintry outside and I can think of nothing better than a comforting soup like this. I don't think I've ever seen green split peas for sale over here - they do make a similar soup with yellow split peas. It's called ärtsoppa and is traditionally eaten on Thursdays. It is served with a teaspoon of grainy mustard to stir in, plus a sprinkling of thyme or marjoram and accompanied by buttered Swedish crispbread.

    I've never liked bread in soup. My father used put bread in his soup and it made me feel ill as a child to watch him. It's the same with mopping up gravy or sauce with bread - I feel queasy when I see people do that. I can have rice or small pasta in soup, but never, ever bread, croutons or crackers. It's funny how these things stick with you. I know I'm in a minority on this point, but it is what it is :)

    1. I love learning about new cultures and their food Marie. I have learned a lot from you about Sweden! I like crackers in soup, but not bread! I do think i is somewhat cultural though. I love bread and gravy! but only freshly dipped not soaking in it. xoxo

  2. We had croutons in our split pea soup.
    Grilled cheese with tomato soup.

    1. Sounds tasty. We love a grilled cheese with tomato soup also! xo

  3. I do so enjoy split pea and ham soup. Like you I nearly always make it with our ham bone Christmas leftovers. I just made a pot a couple of days ago. Luckily the split peas we get here do not have to be soaked overnight. So, I make pea soup whenever I get the fancy. This year I cooked it in my Instapot pressure cooker for the first time ever. It pressure cooked 18 minutes but took about 35 minutes total which is much faster than the 1 1/2 it usually takes. I was surprised that the peas were already thick and mushy. I did not have to use my wand blender at all. It was fast and easy so I recommend using a pressure cooker if you have one.... But then, if you have plenty of time, there is something very comforting about cooking it on the stove and smelling the good aroma as it cooks. Thanks for sharing Marie. Hugs

    1. That is very quick Lura! I hope to be able to get an Instant Pot at some point to replace the one I had to leave behind, but first to find a place to live! There are not a lot that are available now. Hopefully soon! xoxo

    2. In Newfoundland, we use salt beef or salt riblets ( it's called naval beef):to make peasoup(but also ham bone, if we have one). It's usually yellow split peas, with onion, carrot and some times rutabaga (turnip as we call it). Served with a big slice of homemade bread with butter.


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