Joni Woolf: Too much soup? Never!

Published 12:01 pm Monday, October 16, 2017

Last week I wrote about two kinds of soup. Both were recipes I had tried several times before and enjoyed. I was in a soup-making mood, so I made the Lentil Vegetable Soup, using green lentils (there was enough red/orange color in the soup with carrots and tomatoes). It is a robust vegetable soup, boasting cabbage, carrots — the ingredients one would expect to find in such a soup. It was quite good. By the third day, I added half-cup chopped baked ham to the soup, and that was good, also. So, I was in a soup-making mode. I decided I’d like some split pea soup, a recipe I had not made in a year or two, so made a big pot and shared with my daughter up the hill. She thought it was very good, so I think I’ll make another pot of it. I still have one ham hock left, and split peas are inexpensive. I usually have on hand the onions, carrots and celery, so it’s an easy soup to put together, though it takes some time to prepare. Last night as I enjoyed the soup, I wished for a piece of good, homemade bread, and decided that, when I make the next pot of Split Pea, I’m going to make some “real” bread to enjoy alongside the soup. In fact, I’m including two bread recipes, both fairly simple to execute, along with the soup recipe.

1 pound dried split peas
1 ham hock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (if I don’t have on hand, I use salted)
1 cup finely chopped onions
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped carrots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound baked ham, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (if you don’t have, use ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
Place the peas in a large pot or bowl, cover with water by 2 inches and soak 8 hours or overnight. Drain the peas and set aside. Place the ham hock in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 1 hour. Drain and set aside. (Note: I know some of you are thinking, why discard that stock? Because it’s too salty, not good for you. Toss it. Trust me.) In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook until they are beginning to soften. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring for about 30 seconds. Add the ham hock and ham and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown — 2 or 3 minutes. Add the drained peas, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add 8 cups of water, the bay leaf and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, until peas are soft, about 1 hour. If soup becomes too thick, more water may be added. Mine did not. It was the perfect consistency. Remove bay leaf. Serve with a good homemade bread, or an especially good one bought locally.

(This recipe from Maysie Atkinson is similar to my mother’s whole wheat bread, and just as good. I have made it several times.)
5 or 6 cups flour (1/2 whole wheat, ½ unbleached)
2 packages yeast
2 cups milk
½ cup Canola oil
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
Put 2 cups flour and yeast in a bowl and blend with electric mixer. Put milk, oil, honey and salt in medium-size pot; heat to a little hotter than lukewarm. When mixture is hot (not scalding or boiling), turn on mixer and pour mixture, all at once, into flour with dough hook, or by hand. Add eggs, and if needed, extra flour. Place in a bowl that has been rubbed with oil, and turn the dough over to oil all surfaces, to prevent drying. Cover bowl with dish towel or foil. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in bulk. Shape into two loaves and place in 9- by 5-inch loaf pans; let rise again. Bake at 325 degrees F. for half-hour. Cool on cake racks. (To test for doneness, turn bread out, thump on bottom of loaf. If it sounds hollow, it is done. If not, cook 10 minutes longer, and try again.)

Or try this one from “Caprial’s Seasonal Kitchen”
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages yeast
4 ½ cups flour
1 cup milk
1 cup butter
5 eggs
6 oven-roasted shallots (see below)
1 egg
2 teaspoons water.
1 egg for brushing tops of loaves
In very large bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast and 1 ½ cups flour. In a medium-size saucepan, heat milk and butter until very hot, about 120 degrees F. With a mixer on low speed, gradually beat liquid into dry ingredients. Beat about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl. Mix in eggs, then add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, to make a soft dough. Add chopped shallots and beat for 5 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled. Punch down dough, grease, cover, and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. The next day punch down dough again and allow to rest 15 minutes. Divide the dough in half. Shape both halves into loaves and place in greased and floured 9- by 5-inch loaf pans. Cover and allow to rise until double in size, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush raised loaves with 1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water. Bake about one hour. Cool before slicing.
Note 1: To roast shallots: Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Place 6 whole shallots and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in heavy, ovenproof pan. Roast until shallots are very soft, about 40 minutes.
Note 2: Always keep extra flour off to the side when making bread, and add as necessary to make the dough pliable and easy to handle. Keep dusting hands with flour if they become sticky, making it difficult to handle the dough. Bread-making is an art, and takes some time to become comfortable doing it. But once you’ve learned how to handle dough, you’ll want to keep coming back. (Handling the other kind of “dough” is another matter, entirely.)

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at