slow cooked leek, bacon, and split pea soup

It’s Sunday and the early morning sunshine is streaming in lighting up trails across the floor as dust motes swirl in the sunbeams. The coffee pot is on. Ella Fitzgerald is singing her heart out in my living room. I am assembling recipes and ingredients all over the kitchen – preparing for a cooking marathon. I text my daughter who lives only a couple of blocks away:  Got any bay leaves?

She calls me back rather than texting. “I have fresh rosemary,” she says. I have rosemary too. But it’s not rosemary I am after. I want bay leaves. No matter. I will proceed without them. I’m not interested in the shriveled nasty looking bay leaves I can buy here in Canada. In my mind, I am back in Australia where I have lived for great chunks of my adult life – thinking about the bay leaves I pilfered from various bay trees and laurel (bay) hedges. The thought of bay hedges makes me nostalgic for Australia.  But then, almost every fall as the days get shorter and winter looms, I’m intensely nostalgic for Australia. Who am I kidding? I am nostalgic. Full stop. Nostalgia – like sentimentality – is underrated.

On the kitchen island I have assembled a large bunch of leeks, carrots, split peas, garlic, onion, and a package of thick, meaty bacon from the butchers. On the counter behind me – there’s also butter, olive oil, chocolate, Reese’s pieces and the cornbread that I made the night before. It is sitting at the ready – a small corner gone. I ate it warmed, buttered and slathered in blackberry jam along with my first cup of coffee.

I am looking lovingly at the ingredients. I have been reading nothing but food literature lately and when I’m not reading about food – I’ve been watching food movies. I’m currently reading Kathleen Flinn’s enticing memoir – The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry – about her adventures at the highly stressful Cordon Bleu Cookery School in Paris. And this past weekend I watched two foodie movies – french film Haute Cuisine, which I loved, and the eccentric, rather odd Italian film, I Am Love.

So it’s hardly surprising that I am looking at the food on my counter through new eyes. I can’t help but think about the critical chefs at the Cordon Bleu Cookery School who inspect the chopped vegetables to make sure they are all cut the same, small, exact uniform size.

I attack the leeks with a kind of reckless abandon. To me onions are so integral to good cooking. When I heard that celebrity chef/writer Anthony Bourdain said that life without stock was not worth living – I thought of all the ingredients I felt that way about – salt, butter, pepper, onions, garlic, cheese, chocolate, lemons, vinegar, olive oil, figs, blackberry jam, currants, cranberries, arugula, basil, rosemary. But apparently not bay leaves. And actually – not stock either. Sorry Anthony, but I believe I could live a very worthwhile life without stock. Especially if I’m allowed to use marmite or vegemite in its place, or heaven forbid, the odd stock cube. Organic, I promise.

For a while now – I’ve been binge cooking on the weekend. This particular weekend, I’m making leek, bacon, and cornbread stuffing in preparation for upcoming Canadian Thanksgiving. And I have so many leeks that I am also making bacon, leek and split pea soup in my crockpot. And lastly – I’m also making a batch of gluten-free oatmeal Reese’ pieces cookies.

This is pretty much my dream life. Only it’s real. The dream will end a couple of hours later when I get to the clean-up. For now, I’m in my element – washing and rewashing the leeks, chopping garlic, singing along with Ella.

I often buy things like bags of split peas and shelve them – and then wonder what possessed me. I hardly like pea soup. This pea soup though – I liked very much. Enough that I can imagine making it over and over. The preparation is easy. I chucked everything in the crock pot and cooked it on high for a couple of hours  and then turned it down and let it simmer all day. It’s thick and rich and creamy smooth – both in flavour and consistency. The bacon gives the soup a perfect slightly salty, smoky flavour and the leeks lend depth and sweetness. It is substantial enough to serve for a main course along with some sort of hearty bread and nice cheese.

split pea, leek and bacon soup

Leek, Bacon, and Split Pea Soup - cooked in the slow-cooker

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 1/2 cups yellow split peas, well rinsed
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced finely
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced finely
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 slices well-cooked, thick meaty smoked bacon, chopped
  • 2 leeks, incredibly well washed, finely diced and fried in the bacon fat
  • 4 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock, brought to the boil
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • a bay leaf if you have it

Begin by rinsing the split peas a couple of times. Drain in a sieve or fine colander and place the washed peas into your crock pot (or large soup pan). add the diced carrots, onions, garlic, stock and water. Turn on high. [If you’re cooking this on the stove rather than the crockpot – adjust as you see fit. It will take a couple of hours simmering on the stove.]

Fry the bacon until well done. Remove the bacon and cut into small pieces. Reserve the bacon fat – but place the bacon into the soup pot.

Next, deal with the leeks. Begin by washing the leeks thoroughly – starting with the whole leek. Then chop the ends off and cut the leeks in half vertically. Separate the layers and wash again – at least two more times. When satisfied that the layers are completely clean & you can’t stand washing them again – dry and cut the leeks horizontally into about 1/2 inch pieces. Fry the leeks in the bacon fat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the leeks are soft and slightly browned. Add to the soup pot. Here’s where you could add a bay leaf or two – if you have them. Remember to fish them out before serving.

Let the soup come to the boil and leave on high for another hour or two before turning it down to the low setting.  Let the soup cook all day – checking at least once to see if it needs more water. Serve it with freshly ground pepper.



29 thoughts on “slow cooked leek, bacon, and split pea soup

  1. Yum soup, looks delicious, so glad it’s getting cooler and I can get out my soup pot. I much prefer leeks to onion, I also prefer shallot to onion. Leeks I have a love hate relationship with, hate cleaning because I am so picky about any grit in food, one particle and in the trash it goes. Silly right? I feel quite accomplished when I produce a perfectly grit free leek. I actually love split peas and think your soup is spectacular.

    1. Thank you Suzanne! And yes – a good soup is one of the perks of having to endure winter.
      Cooking leeks whole – as in braised leeks – makes me very nervous because it is SO hard to get them clean. But I don’t find it too bad if you slice them half in vertically and then separate the layers. A couple of changes of water and a good swishing normally does it. But I know what you mean. I harvested some sumac last week and an earwig crawled out! I was on the verge of composting everything. But I persisted because I realized that if I bought commercial sumac – I’d very likely be buying dried and ground earwigs at the same time! The sumac is now dried and on my counter, earwig free, I hope, and- ready to make za’atar. 😉

  2. Sounds delicious. And I love your text in this.Your enthusiasm is palpable. Out of curiosity, do you use dried bay leaves. Or do they lack in flavour compared to fresh. When I still had a garden there was always a bay leaf shrub growing in a pot just outside the door, so I could reach it easily in all weathers. Fresh bay leaf in thin custard!
    I’ve just spent ages checking out Svalbard – a country I’d never heard of. I really shouldn’t go into Google maps!

    1. Goodness Johnny – I’m so pleased to hear from you. I don’t know what is going on – but I don’t get your posts and when I try to click on your blog – I get a message telling me access is denied. It asks me to enter my details – should I do that? I’m not clear how it is that I have managed to unfollow you but this is not the first time mysterious things have happened to me on WordPress. I’m wondering if using the app on my cellphone does something?

      And I’m off now – to google Svalbard. Richard Feynman – the Nobel Laureate in Physics – found a tiny country called Tuva in the middle of Mongolia. He applied for and got permission to go. I believe he was the first person from the West to visit. There’s a book about it called Tuva or Bust. Perhaps you’ll visit Svalbard. “Svalbard or Bust!”

      1. PS Johnny – apparently the bay leaves we buy dried generally come from Turkey and are supposed to be a different plant – a much milder, more rounded flavour than the fresh bay leaves from California or Australia – which are sharper in flavour and more pungent. I do think bay leaves (dried or fresh) make a difference to a dish but it is definitely subtle – except perhaps in something delicate like a thin custard. Those Cordon Bleu chefs would no doubt notice the absence of a bay leaf in a hearty soup or stew – but I’m not sure my unsophisticated peasant palate would notice. Now you’ve got me curious. I might have to do a with-and-without bay leaf challenge sometime.

      2. Ah, must’ve forgotten to let you know that I’ve stopped blogging. And the easiest thing to do was to make it private, rather than deleting it entirely. I’m building a new website, although I’m not sure where it’s going. It’s:

        Funny how I’ve heard of Tuva. There’s so much of this world I haven’t been to. Including lots of Europe. Right now I’m hankering after Scandinavia for some reason.

      3. I am so thrilled that Ivy lives on thru her date nut bread recipe.She was a crusty old battleaxe, as tough as nails, and the best baker I’d ever encountered. And sweet underneath the veneer. Like the date nut bread. Doesn’t look as beautiful as showier desserts but has real substance. 😉

  3. Best. Soup. EVER!! Seriously maximum flavor and so filling. Thank you so much for sharing a bowl with me 🙂 So lucky to have the worlds best cook for my Mum!


    1. Emory – you are the sweetest. Thank you.
      I saw when your comment came up that I am not following you. I don’t understand this. I will re-follow. I believe this is the second time this has happened to me with you and it’s happened with others too. Frustrating. And all I can figure is that it has something to do with the app I downloaded because it’s since I did this that I’ve been having these woes.
      Love the barn house. I have a Pinterest board called “I want to live in a barn.” Seriously!

  4. I love this Lindy and I have really been missing out on your wonderful posts. And I love how you have cooking binges on the weekend, sounds like a very peaceful scene in your home. 🙂 This soup sounds wonderful. I never buy split peas for some reason. I really do enjoy split pea soup, I’ll have to make this for my guys. They’ll love it.

    1. Seana – am thrilled to see you back. Have missed you!
      I never buy split peas either! I bought these ones to make yellow split pea dahl – which was okay but nothing to post about! I know bacon is popular in your household!! I think your guys might just like this soup. 😉

  5. Thanks so much for your list of books and movies. I’ll have to get on it! I’ve been obsessed lately myself. I love your list of things you can’t live without. They’re such luxuries of nature. Bourdain loves stock because he loves all things Asia and even Latin America where stock is king in so many dishes. Ella has always been one of my faves too. 🙂 What a beautiful soup. So very seasonal. The photo of the leek is perfect. I would love a warm bowl of this. It sounds like you’re having some much-needed fun in the kitchen. Fry the leeks in bacon fat? Yum. As for bay leaves, the only time I”ve ever seen them not dried is in Louisiana. We were on a swamp and rowed past these hedges and I was like “OMG bay leaves in the wild” #waytooexcitedaboutfood.

    1. Amanda – you ALWAYS make me smile either because your photographs are so stunning or because your writing is so beautiful or because your food is so divine or because your comments are so fabulous. And my favourite part of your comment here is the #waytooexcitedaboutfood. Yes, hashtag, I am. And I love that you actually read the recipe itself. So I know you are #waytooexcitedaboutfood too!! ❤

      1. Lol! What a sweet response. I really am obsessed. I sense that same fire in you. It’s like a hunger. I hope the soup satisfied it just a bit and that you’re making amazing leek based food 🙂

  6. Happy Thanksgiving my love… I hope your day is a beautiful one.. ❤
    I love reading your posts. There is definitely something comforting in them, especially your nostalgia over Australia. You know, the other day, I was watching a rerun of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, and he was in Australia. He was working with this exterminating company that removed snakes from homes, and they were talking like this was a common thing! Oh, no thank you!! At that point, I decided that I didn't want to go to Australia!! But now you have made me think twice about it… I want to see bay trees..
    You're also inspiring me to start watching movies and reading books that are all based on food…and I'm thinking I might just start with Kathleen Flinn's book.
    And this soup. What else can I say, but..perfection. It looks delicious. ❤

    1. Thank you Prudy. I did have a perfect Thanksgiving Day. No snakes!

      But yes, I did see plenty of snakes in Australia – just not in any of the homes I lived in. However, we once went camping and when we rolled up the tent in the morning a large Brown snake had crawled in under the tent – presumably to stay warm. It’s one of the the ten deadliest snakes on the planet. Saw a carpet snake eat a huge rat once on a forest walk. That was crazy. Also saw lots of poisonous spiders and one of the houses we lived in had an infestation of them. I’d still go back though – but perhaps just for a visit. You would LOVE the food.

      If you’re going to read Katherine Flinn – I highly recommend The Sharper the Knife… she has two others as well but so far – this one is my favourite. It’s really well written and quite educational on cooking as well. At the back of each chapter there’s a recipe. I’ve tried one so far – for a classic Italian Bolognaise sauce – essentially 2 pounds of ground beef, garlic, onion and an entire bottle of Chianti! Finished with heavy cream and fresh parmesan.
      I’m in a bit of a funk – exhausted perhaps after moving and just not looking forward to winter. But seeing you in my comments section cheered me on. Thank you dear Prudy. xox

  7. A marathon weekend of cooking sounds very satisfying…especially if it included a bowl of your soup. I’ve always used green split peas and must now try yellow ones.

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