London Particular

"This is a London particular, a fog."

Mr. Guppy, Bleak House

Thursday was not a good day to cycle in London and not a good day to cycle to the Eastend. The traffic was terrible and crossing the river the city was draped in a real London fog. The city was in black and white as the towers, spires, bridges and skyscrapers were enveloped in the murky mist that had crept up the Thames estury and engulfed the city. Some might call it a 'pea souper'. But although in the last weeks London has seen its fair share of damp mist, we must be thankful that pollution is not as bad as it used to be.

In Victorian London, as the industrial revolution reached its height, little concern was given to the enviroment and cities like London became the industrial power-houses of the country. The smoke from coal fires, railways, and London's factories mixed with the natural fog to create a killer smog known as a 'pea souper.'

Pea soups have long been staples of the British kitchen, filling and cheap, before the days of frozen food dried peas would keep well through the winter and a London particular is a particularly thick pea soup named after the dreadful fogs that enveloped London from the start of the Industrial Revolution to relatively modern times. Ideally the soup should be made with the stock from a smoked ham or gammon hock, and to be at its most authentic should use yellow split peas to mimic the foul air that blanketed the London of Dickens' day.

If you don't have yellow split peas, green will do fine and frozen peas too. (dont soak the frozen peas over night)
  • 25g butter
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 carrot, chopped
  • 4 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 400g dried split Peas 
  • 1.5 litres of ham stock (beef will do)
  • Salt and Pepper 

1. Cover the dried split peas in cold water and leave to soak overnight. 

2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for 10 minutes. 

3. Add the split peas and stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring from time to time. 

4. Allow to cool a little. In Victorian London food processors were not available and a servant might blitz the mix by hand. If you don't have a servant a blender will do just fine. Transfer to a food processor or liquidiser and blend until smooth. 

5. Return to the pan and season to taste over a low heat stirring constantly.


6. Serve immediately with chunky slices of crusty white bread.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 at 23:30 and is filed under British Recipes, Cycling in London, English Recipes, Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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