It’s cold again with temperatures down at 14ºC, which is not that bad for May if it weren’t soaking wet too. It’s been pouring down since the morning and the skies are still heavy with bags of rain. Time for a bowl of warm, reassuring soup perhaps? Let’s cook it up!
Before we start checking for the ingredients, it’s important to say a few words about párky (pronounced as paarki). It’s a Slovak name for thin pork sausages similar to frankfurters or chipolatas. I have also eaten a British, Irish, Belgian or Swiss version of the sausage, so my guess is they will be available in some form all around the world. After all, they are an indispensable ingredient for Hot Dogs, aren’t they?
Slovaks like to eat their párky for breakfast or as a light evening meal. They are quick and easy to prepare – all we do is to boil the sausages for about 5 minutes, and serve them hot with mustard and fresh bread.
As my son is a great fan of paarki, I often have some in the fridge. They come in different lengths ranging from mini-sausages through regular to long ones. The colour can vary from pale pink to dark brown depending on the meat and spices used. A cheesy variety was introduced a few years ago, and recently I have also seen paarki spiced up with bear garlic – a herb that’s becoming so popular in today’s healthy kitchen.
For my pea soup, I used long paarki bought at the fresh meat counter of a local supermarket. If you want to go vegetarian though, you can always leave the sausages out.
Since I first made my Bear Garlic Soup, I’ve had a regular supply of bear garlic from my friend’s garden up in the hills. She says, however, this is probably the last batch, as the plant is supposed to start flowering any time now, which is when the leaves lose their punch and characteristic flavour.
The Internet tells me that dry yellow peas are commonly used in many world cuisines, so they should be easy to buy wherever you live. We in Slovakia are fortunate enough to grow and use our own peas which, along with other legumes like beans, chickpeas and lentils, have been a vital part of our cooking since time immemorial.
Yellow Pea Soup with Paarki
250 g dry yellow peas
4 large potatoes
2 l water
1 handful bear garlic or 3 cloves regular garlic
3 bay leaves
white pepper, ground
pork lard or oil for frying
paarki or other thin sausages
Wash the dry peas and strain them on a sieve. Transfer to a large cooking pot and pour in the water. Stir well and bring to the boil, but be careful to watch the peas closely, as they will form quite a lot of foam when they come to the boil. Turn down the heat and take the foam off with a spoon. Stir well and continue cooking over a medium low heat for an hour.
Rinse the bear garlic leaves or peel the regular garlic. I cut the greens’ stems off and chopped them finely, as you can see in the slideshow at the top. Separating the leaves and the stems of the bear garlic not only gives two different flavours to your soup, but the two parts of the herb also need different cooking times.
Peel and wash the potatoes. When the peas are cooked and tender, add the potatoes to them and increase the heat. Stir well and watch until the soup comes to the boil again to prevent overflowing. Adjust the heat, then add the bay leaf and the chopped bear garlic stems or crushed garlic cloves. Season to taste with salt and ground white pepper. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, slice the sausages and fry them in a pan with a tablespoon of pork lard or oil until brown and crispy. As you see in the pictures below, I used the pork lard, which is sold in tubs of 500 g in my country. It has a different taste than oil, therefore it’s more preferable in some Slovak dishes.
Just before taking the soup off the heat, add the chopped bear garlic leaves or other spicy herbs. Stir well and serve immediately with or without bread.