Authentic Norwegian “gul ertesuppe” yellow pea soup

This must be one of the oldest dishes I know of, and there’s a reason why this robust, warming and filling soup has been around for so long; it’s incredibly satisfying, easy to make, and dirt cheap.

We know the Vikings used a lot of both beans, lentils, and peas, but it is in particular dried peas that has been a part of the Norwegian staple for centuries, simply because peas can be grown here, while beans and lentils can’t.

This soup is clearly a modern interpretation of a centuries old dish because I put meat in it. Even as late as 1865, Norwegians ate as little as 6 kg meat per person per year, so consider this when you make it. In short – this soup does very well as a meatless, vegan dish as well, and would be historically authentic.

The yellow peas has a whopping 22 grams of protein per 100g (beef is 26g), so if you add meat, it’s simply a matter of flavor and texture. If you don’t add meat, consider adding some more veg (see Variations below)

If you do add meat, you want a cut with loads of collagen and bone to add richness and mouthfeel to the broth – remember the meat is for flavor, not to make you full.

The kind of meat that would be appropriate for this dish would be pork trotters, pork knuckle, or pork belly. Fresh or lightly smoked would be best, but salted pork belly is totally historically correct.

If I have it, I use the stock from Pinnekjøtt instead of water. It adds a really nice smoky flavor, and then you definitely don’t need any meat in the soup.

Ingredients

  • 250 g whole yellow peas
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 1 large leek, sliced at an angle
  • 3 bay leafs
  • A small handful fresh thyme
  • Optional: 2 pork trotters, or 1/3 pork knuckle, or 150 g salted pork belly
  • 2 liters water
  • Fine sea salt to taste

Method

The peas you will use are the whole yellow peas, not yellow split peas; very important difference. But the very most important thing is to soak the peas overnight, then toss out that water, rinse the peas, and cook in fresh water.

Failing to do so will make you fart real fucking bad the rest of the day, and the following night.

Next, fill a 4-5 liter pot with 2 liters of water, toss in the herbs, and bring to a boil.

If you make this soup meatless, skip to the next step. Otherwise, depending on what meat you use, do this:

  • Pork knuckle: Take off one third of the meat and dice into bite sized cubes, and gently simmer for 2.5 hours. Use the remaining knuckle for something else. Cassoulet for example.
  • Pork trotter: Toss straight into the pot, and gently simmer with the herbs for 2.5 hours, then pick the meat off the bone and dice the skin. Discard the bone, tip the meat and skin back into the pot.
  • Pork belly: Dice into bite sized cubes and gently simmer for 2 hours.

Next, use a slotted spoon to lift out the thyme and bay leafs. Season to taste the broth with fine sea salt, tip the soaked peas and diced onion into the pot, and simmer until the peas are tender, approx. 60-90 minutes.

Skim off the pea skins that floats up if you’d like. The slotted spoon is good for this.

When the peas are tender, tip in diced carrots and sliced leeks. I like to cut the leek at an angle, so the rings separates more easily. Simmer until the carrots and leek is tender, approx. 5 minutes.

Taste the soup, and see if it needs more sea salt. Ladle the soup into four bowls and sprinkle some finely chopped parsley, chives or thyme on top.

Serving:

We like to serve with a glass of raspberry & red currant juice, or black currant juice, and some buttered up rustic sourdough bread on the side.

If you wanna go really old school, serve with flattbrød (recipe) instead – that’s what us Norwegians ate before the potato came in vogue in the late 1700s 😉

Variations:

There is nothing wrong with using other vegetables in this soup. Many people use diced potatoes, some use celeriac, and others again use parsley root. Use whatever looks best, and what you have available to you.

Keeping:
This soup keeps very well for up to a week in the fridge, and freezes very well too. The soup in the picture for this recipe was in fact frozen…

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