Finnish pea soup Hernekeitto with ham - a Thursday tradition


This authentic and traditional Finnish pea soup is very different from the light green, fresh and elegant pea and mint soup that we eat here in the UK. This is almost mustardy dark, thick and potent stuff you could use to hang wallpaper with. In Finland it's traditionally eaten on Thursdays followed by flatulence oven pancake for dessert.

Slow cooked pea soup with smoked moose

This is what I had for lunch at school every Thursday. Only we didn't get the pancake. And the soup was a bit watery, not the kind of rich stewlike thing mum used to make. And the meat floating on the green liquid was kind of grey and fatty. We were never sure what animal it was. If indeed it was of the natural world.

I didn't mind the soup too much. I had been trained to be a non-fussy eater by then. I wasn't naturally, I had to be chased around the house with a spoon.

Here's dad helping me to appreciate new tastes and textures. 
Actually I think he might be checking my teeth.

But proper Finnish pea soup can be a lovely winter warmer, slow cooked, well seasoned and made with proper meat, not the neighbour's cat. It's not a difficult dish to do, but a bit fiddly. First you have to soak the peas overnight, which is easy enough. Then you naturally boil the peas removing foam and the skins that float to the top. There can be a lot of foam and you probably want to keep an eye on it rather than, say, go to the other room to do a late conference call to US. Once the foam stops er... foaming so much, and you have cleaned the half an inch of sticky green slime covering your cooker, you can leave the peas to simmer on low heat. And once you've done the soup, you should actually leave it to cool overnight and heat next day. That's when it's at it's best, thick and full of taste. So not your quick 15 min everyday soup, but cheap, healthy and comforting if you can be bothered

Traditional Finnish pea soup 

The original recipe uses cured ham, but as we don't eat pork I used a chunk of beautiful smoked moose.

250 g dried peas
4 cups water
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 carrot
1 small onion
3/4 - 1 cup of chopped smoked meat
1/2 tbsp dijon mustard

Rinse the peas, cover well with water (about 4 cups)  and soak for about 8-10 hours or overnight.

Boil your peas in the soaking water. Keep peeling the foam and skins that float to the top. Add salt and marjoram. Once the peas are soft (this will take about an hour and a bit) chop the carrot and onion and add to the soup. Add water also if it looks very thick. Cook until the carrots are done. Add the mustard and the meat and cook for another 10 minutes. Check the seasoning and add salt and mustard if needed.

You can eat it immediately, but it improves if you leave it to cool and refrigerate overnight. When heating up the next day add a little bit of water. It is supposed to be quite thick but still a soup not a mash.

Traditional Finnish pea soup with smoked meat

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  1. I love the fact that you combine food blogging with little stories about your life and cultural differences between Finland and England.

    PS. I also love pea soup, and will try your recipe :)

    1. :) Thanks for reading! I'm checking out your blog - so interesting!

    2. ☝️😁🤗

  2. Ahh post-pea soup farting...almost as rich and satisfying as the soup! A natural process of the Human digestion but not so ladylike to comment on....oh heck with it! I'll be getting a second mugful and cracking a window :0) love the recipe!

  3. thank you for sharing your recipe! my late grandfather immigrated to the US from finland and after his passing i have been looking to find foods that come from this side of my cultural heritage to understand it a little better. i look forward to making the soup :-)

  4. Excellent! Thank you. 😆