Every culture has a variation of split pea soup. The sofrito gives it a unique flavor you won’t find anywhere else. Sofrito serves as the base for several traditional Cuban dishes, but the exact ingredients of the sofrito vary depending on which one. For a potaje de frijoles colorados we sauté the onions and garlic together. For split pea soup, we add in smoked ham. The result is a distinctly rich flavor unlike any other split pea soup.
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ESTEFAN’S SOPA DE CHICHAROS
1 lb dried split peas
4 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
1 smoked ham hock
½ TSP salt
3 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 large potato, quartered and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 lb calabaza or butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
Pinch of cumin powder
- Rinse the split peas thoroughly and remove any debris. Place the rinsed split peas in a large stockpot and add the water, chicken stock, ham hock, and salt. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low. Simmer on low heat for approximately one hour.
- Meanwhile prepare a sofrito that will be added to the soup for flavoring. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until fragrant. Then add the onions, and bell peppers and stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the ham and sauté for another 3 to 4o minutes.
- After the soup has simmered for an hour, remove the ham hock and tear meat from the bones. Coarsely chop the ham meat and place back in to the stock pot. Add the sofrito, potatoes, calabaza, and cumin to the split peas. Cover (with the lid slightly ajar) and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes and calabazas are fully cooked and fork tender.
- If you want a thicker soup, simmer uncovered for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, but keep an eye on the soup to avoid overcooking. If your soup is too thick, add additional water and chicken stock (in equal parts).