This is a take on a basic but extraordinary soup my grandmother would make with simple ingredients like yellow split peas, herbs, salted cod instead of salted pig tail and tons of dumplings. She lived her entire 99 years without ever touching pork. However I love pork on my fork, so in my version I’ll be using pieces of salted pig’s tail for added flavor and that true Caribbean vibe in the pot.
2 cups yellow split peas
2 lbs salted pig tails
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 scotch bonnet pepper
1 tablespoon veg oil
1 large onion
4 sprigs thyme
4 large potatoes
3-4 cups coconut milk
6-8 cups water
4 cloves garlic
1 cup flour + water for dumplings
Note: If you don’t dine with the swine, you can easily use salted beef or bits of salted cod for the same flavor base. Additionally, you can make this split peas soup fully vegetarian and leave out the pork. Just add about 2/3 teaspoon salt in cooking.
Have your butcher cut the salted pig tail into one to 1.5 inch pieces for you or use a heavy Chinese clever to do so. Anything else and you’ll ruin your good knives. Rinse with cool water, place in a deep pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and let it go for about 45 minutes. The goal is to remove most of the salt the pork was cured in and to help tenderize it so when cooked in the soup it will be falling off the bones. Then drain and set aside.
As the vegetable oil heats on a medium flame in a deep soup pot, prep the ingredients. Dice the garlic, onion and scallions and peel and cut the potato into quarters.
The oil should be hot now, so toss in the garlic, onion, scallion and thyme and reduce the heat to low. After about 3-4 minutes, go in with the black pepper and then toss in the pre-cooked pieces of salted pig tail. Raise the heat to medium and give it a good stir. Wash and drain the split peas (place in a strainer and run cool water while running your fingers though the grains), then add it to the pot.
It’s now time to add the water, coconut milk and potato to the pot and bring to a boil. Then lower to a simmer and drop in the scotch bonnet pepper ‘whole’! This will give us a ton of flavor but not the raw heat. Near the end you can remove the springs from the thyme as well as the whole scotch bonnet pepper. Or if you want that Caribbean sunshine, you can burst it for real fyah!
After about 50 minutes of simmering (remember to keep stirring) the pieces of pigs tail should be tender and the split peas should start to dissolve. A sign that it’s time to add the flour dumplings. In a bowl place the flour and enough water to make a soft but firm dough (tip – add a pinch of sugar to the dough) , then work with a fork then go in with your hands to make the dough ball. Let it rest for about 5 minutes, then start pinching small pieces off and shape into a sort of cigarette shape (spinners). Add to the pot and cook for another 8 minutes.
Now taste for salt (adjust accordingly) as we didn’t add any salt with the hopes that the remaining salt from the salted pig tail would be enough to season the pot accordingly, remove the pepper if you so desire and don’t forget to also get rid of the springs from the thyme.
IMPORTANT! This split peas soup will thicken drastically as it cools so be sure to add more water if needed.
Turn off the heat and serve HOT! You can always add carrots, green bananas and ground provisions to the pot if you desire, but I find that it’s not really necessary! However our grandmother would always include yam if it was in season. Also bear in mind that this is not like a North American soup, but more like a thick stew and it will (no matter how hard you try) turn out to be a very large pot of soup.