Dutch cuisine is above all a winter cuisine. The vegetables that grow in the Netherlands are those that are able to overcome a certain level of frost and that do not deteriorate more in case of prolonged rains.
The snert that I am sharing today, as well as the stamppot, which consists of mashed potatoes with winter vegetables including Dutch kale (boerenkool), are among the most representative dishes of the most traditional Dutch cuisine.
In Groningen, in the north of the country, the snert world championship has been held since 1995. And the stamppot world championship has been held since 2001. On the third Friday of February, chefs and cooks compete for the title of world champion of these two institutional dishes and for a cup and a silver ladle. This event is a big deal in the Netherlands and the country even prints special postage stamps with the logo of this championship: a ladle and a potato masher.
A jury of experts including the captain of the Dutch football team, awards points to the participants according to taste, texture, aroma, color, ingredients, hygiene, preparation time, presentation and originality.
Almost everywhere in the world, you will find variants of the split pea soup. It has been consumed since at least Antiquity as it was even mentioned in The Birds by Aristophanes, an ancient Greek utopian comedy, and, according to some sources, the Greeks and the Romans cultivated this legume between 500 and 400 BC. At that time, street vendors were already selling split pea soup in the streets of Athens.
In the Netherlands, snert made its appearance in the sixteenth century following a very harsh winter. Today, during the particularly cold winters, when the Dutch have the chance to skate on the iced channels, there are huts along the shores where skaters can consume something hot. And, of course, snert is always an option! A hot cup of split pea soup accompanied by a piece of smoked sausage invigorates, strengthens and warms up!
Although delicious, we would be hard pressed to say that split pea soup belongs to fine cuisine. Yet the linguists are unanimous. If erwtensoep literally means “pea soup”, the word snert comes from the old Dutch snirten which means “fine cuisine”!
To name only a few famous of those variants:
In Sweden, ärtsoppa (pea soup) is a traditional dish that dates back to the Viking era. Sometimes with pork, it is also known as ärtsoppa och fläsk (pea soup with bacon).
In Quebec, yellow split pea soup is an iconic dish.
In Japan, China, Taiwan, and a few Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, split peas are sometimes eaten in soups but are mostly grilled, salted, and eaten as appetizers. In Japan, you can find wasabi-flavored peas.
In the United Kingdom, yellow split peas are used to prepare a traditional dish called pease pudding. It is a popular dish, native to northern England but now widespread, especially as an accompaniment to traditional fish and chips.
In Germany, there is a pea sausage called erbswurst. It is a paste-like preparation, consisting mainly of peas and other ingredients, that is presented in a sausage-shaped packaging, and which is used to prepare instant soup with boiling water. Invented in 1867 by Johann Heinrich Grüneberg, this recipe was sold to the Prussian State to feed the soldiers of the Franco-German war in 1870.
In Ethiopia, pea consumption is high (about 14 lb per person per year). They are eaten in a stew (shiro wot), or as boiled ground split peas (kik wotavek).
In America, the split pea soup has several versions. The most common version is prepared with chicken broth and sour cream is added at the end of cooking.
In France, the famous Saint Germain soup is the name for the split pea soup.
Did you know that peas and split peas are really from the same plant? The first is fresh and the second is dry. It’s as simple as that! Peas are harvested before maturity while split peas are allowed to ripen. Dried and peeled, the seed separates into two cotyledons, it is “split”. You now understand better where the split pea takes its name.
Fragile when cooked, split peas are eaten rather in soups or mashed. One last thing, snert actually tastes better if consumed 1 or 2 days after making it.
I did not wait for a harsh winter to prepare my snert. We enjoyed it one evening of scorching Parisian heat and we all loved it!
- 12 oz. split peas
- 12 oz. smoked pork lardons , cut into cubes
- 6 slices streaky bacon
- 3 smoked pork sausages , sliced
- 6 oz ham hock , diced
- 1 leek
- 1 onion
- ½ lb celery root
- 2 carrots
- 6 oz. green beans
- 10 oz. potatoes , peeled and diced
- 4 quarts chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Soak the split peas for 1 hour in a large amount of cold water.
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large pot and sauté the ham hock for 5 minutes.
Rinse and drain the split peas. Cook with ham hock and lardons in 3 quarts of chicken broth over medium heat for 1 hour.
Then, add the vegetables and the diced potatoes. Add remaining chicken stock and cook for 30 minutes.
During this second phase of cooking, place the streaky bacon slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover them with another sheet of parchment paper, then another plate to press on the whole thing. Place 20 minutes in an oven preheated at 350 F.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a pan and sauté the sausage slices over high heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
If you want to a velvety soup, finely mix the content of the pot.
If you prefer a chunky soup, coarsely mix it or take a few pieces of hock, vegetables, sausages and bacon before mixing the rest and add them on the top of the soup at serving.
Whichever texture you end up choosing, the snert soup must be very thick.
Place the streaky bacon on top before serving.