Snert (Split Pea Soup)

I bet you could win over many a Dutch person with Snert. Snert (with an e as in elephant) is one of those fantastic winter-warming soups synonymous with icy weather and skating in the Netherlands. (Rather like in Britain where parched peas, treacle toffee, bonfires, and fireworks are synonymous with Guy Fawkes night on November 5th.)

Snert (or erwtensoep) always reminds me of when we went to the Dutch island of Ameland in the early nineties. A few of us helped organize the international month-long sesshins for Kanzeon Sangha that were held there. The retreats took place in a summer bungalow park, the first of which my husband, Tenkei, and Kees van de Bunt located in 1991. It was almost deserted in the winter so the manager was more than happy to accommodate a few extra guests. That sparked a twenty year tradition where between one and three hundred Zen practitioners streamed in for a month of Zen (and later Big Mind) training led by Genpo Roshi, while braving the freezing elements.

To get there you had to take the ferry over to the island. It was a long trip and it was cold. At the on-board cafeteria, they served split-pea soup piping hot in little metal soup bowls that warmed the cockles of your soul. I will always remember it.

Whatever happened since then, it’s reassuring to know that Snert continues to be served to this day on that ferry.

Ingredients

330 g (1½ cups) split peas
1¼ litres (5 cups) water
1 medium onion
1 carrot
200 g (1½ cups) celery root (celeriac)
2 medium cloves garlic
1¼ teaspoons rosemary
1¼ teaspoons sage
1¼ teaspoons savory
1¼ teaspoons thyme
Dash of cloves
Salt and white pepper to taste
2 vegetarian/vegan sausages, preferably rookworst (smoked sausage)

Method

  • Rinse the split peas and drain. Tip them into a heavy-bottomed soup pot or pressure cooker with the water. Set aside.
  • Peel and medium dice the onion, carrot and celery root.
  • Peel the garlic and mince.
  • Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a frying pan on medium flame. Add the onions and stir-fry until browned, then put in the carrots, celery root, and garlic and stir-fry a few minutes more. Next add the rosemary, sage, savory, thyme, bay leaves, and cloves, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Tip into the soup pot with the split peas.
  • Bring the soup pot to a boil on a high flame and skim off any foam as it appears. Stir now and then to prevent sticking. When it starts to boil, turn the flame low, cover and simmer for about an hour and a half, or until the split peas are falling apart. Stir the bottom now and then to prevent sticking. Add a little more water if the water level gets too low.
  • Alternatively, cook in a pressure cooker at high pressure for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the flame and let it rest for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure under a stream of cold running water.
  • If you like it smooth, stir well with a wooden spoon, or cook it even longer until the peas dissolve. (I’ve heard one of the local cafes simmers it for three hours!)
  • Slice the vegetarian sausage, stir into the soup and heat for a few minutes (check the heating directions on the package).
  • Serve piping hot.
Ameland 1991 at Boomhiemke bungalow park (morning service in the old disco!)

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