Newfoundland Style Ham and Split Pea Soup with Dough Boys

Monday, October 8, 20129comments

Newfoundland Style Ham and Split Pea Soup with Dough Boys
Newfoundland Style Ham and Split Pea Soup with Dough Boys

Nobody, and I mean nobody, who ever grew up in Newfoundland, never had pea soup and dough boys. Dough boys is the local name for what folks in most parts of North America would refer to as dumplings; very simple, flour-based dough balls that are dropped into simmering soups or stews to gently cook to fluffy perfection in the last few minutes before the meal was served.

This delicious soup harkens back to the days when stretching the family food budget was much more a necessity than a culinary expression. Hmmm... come to think of it, with the cost of groceries these days, perhaps it is still a necessity, if not just very smart and economical meal planning. Even in my own upbringing, nothing in our kitchen was wasted ad that's how I still do it today. The center bone from a smoked baked ham on a Sunday would be boiled to create the stock that would become the base for a pea soup on Monday. The leftover ham, if there was any, would be cut into small chunks to add to the soup as well.

In Newfoundland, salt brined, cured beef is also a very traditional ingredient in split pea soup. You can replace the ham in this recipe with about half the amount of salt beef. Just be sure to soak the salt beef in water for 24 hours before using it in the soup and please change the water at least once during that time or you risk your soup being far too salty. Cut the salt beef in small cubes and add to the pot with the peas and use water or vegetable stock instead of ham stock (Corned beef is also a good choice if salt beef is not available in your area.)

Traditional Newfoundland pea soup would have been very simply seasoned with only yellow onions, pepper and salt if necessary. Garlic, thyme and bay leaves would have been unknown in these parts to my grandmother's generation, so if you want to enjoy the traditional version, please feel free to omit these ingredients, I don't object. I'm a believer that all food cultures are continuously evolving, so I tend to meld the old with the new to create my updated versions of many recipes. It's always good, however, to pay homage to our culinary heritage by preparing the simple and delicious version that so many have enjoyed and gained sustenance from for generations.

This is a terrific meal idea for a time-pressed workday and since popular wisdom says that pea soup is always better the next day, why not make a big pot on the weekend, warm it up the next day and with the dough boys ready in about 15 minutes, there's one quick and delicious weekday dinner sorted. We also freeze this soup in individual servings for quick lunches too.

  • 1 ham bone
  • 4 cloves roughly chopped garlic
  • 1 large coarsely grated carrot
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 12 cups water

Simmer slowly in a large covered pot for 1 1/2 hours. Strain the stock through a colander and return it to the pot. Skim excess fat from the surface of the stock.

  • 2 cups dried yellow split peas
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground white or black pepper, your preference
  • 1 large red or sweet white onion, about 1 1/2 cups diced (yellow onions are traditional, so use them if you want but I use sweeter onions to balance the saltiness of the ham.)
  • (If using salt beef, add it here)

I don't add any salt at this point, the salt content of the ham you are using will determine if you need to add a little at the end. Let your own taste be the guide. Simmer slowly and gently for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the peas do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add:

  • 3 cups diced carrots
  • 3 cups diced baked smoked ham

Simmer for an additional 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Taste the soup at this point to determine if any additional salt is necessary. In all likelihood, it will not. Now add the dough boys to a very gently simmering pot .

Dough Boys

Makes about 10 dough boys

Sift together:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Very quickly mix in with a wooden spoon:

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Do NOT over-work this dough. Stir in the liquid as quickly as possible and as soon as a soft dough forms , STOP mixing. Make sure you give the soup one last good stir to make sure that that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot then immediately drop the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls into the slowly simmering soup. Put the cover on the pot and do NOT remove it for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the dough boys from the pot and give the soup a final stir and remove the bay leaves before serving.
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+ comments + 9 comments

October 8, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Sounds awesome! It brings back lots of memories of my childhood! Thanks!!

October 8, 2012 at 8:38 PM

I love split pea soup and dough boys. So I can't wait to try this recipe.

October 11, 2012 at 5:23 PM

I'm always up for old time recipes like this - can't wait to try it out =)

January 24, 2013 at 5:54 PM

OK so I found this site this morning while looking for a chicken breast recipe, and it's now 4:00 and I've been on and off the site all day saving recipes to my recipe files.

I love to try new recipes but being a Cape Breton transplant (to Ontario, Ugh :) my mouth is just watering as I look at each recipe. This is the food I grew up on and had almost forgotten about. I am soooo thrilled that you started this site.
I'm a fan for life!
(I'm off to cook up the double crunch chicken :)

January 24, 2013 at 6:04 PM

HAHA! We tend to have that effect on people. Be sure to join our Facebook page for all the latest.

February 1, 2013 at 4:06 PM

I am making this as we speak! It smells awesome! I am a transplanted Newfie with mainland parents, but my hubby is a "pure bred" Newf and very picky about his Newfie food. Hopefully, this will pass the test! Thanks for posting :)

November 20, 2013 at 2:13 PM

I really want to try this recipe. Looks delicious, I am wondering when you say strain the stock through a colander and return it to the pot? Do you mean just the ham and leave everything else in there? As you can tell I am not a cooker but id love to try this. Please get back to me!

November 22, 2013 at 11:29 AM

The stock that you are making gets returned to the pot.The ham bone and stock vegetables will be discarded.

November 23, 2013 at 9:21 PM

These dumplings were the best. Definitely a keeper.

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