Friday, February 6, 2009

Dutch Split Pea Soup and a Dutch Masters Evening

The inspiration for making this Dutch Split Pea Soup is this handsome guy who lived from 1606-1674.  I had the most wonderful evening with him last night!

A dear friend, who is a docent at our art museum, asked me to join her for the members' opening lecture and exhibit preview of the new and exciting Jan Lievens Exhibit, a forgotten artist who was a contemporary of Rembrandt. It opens to the public today.

It was like attending a rock concert! We arrived over an hour before the lecture was to begin and there was already a huge line that had formed. The lecture was given by the Washington National Gallery of Art curator Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. I believe we are only one of three or four cities world-wide to host this wonderful exhibit.

Lievens was a friend of Rembrandt's, being born only one year later and in the same town in Holland. They may have even shared a studio. Lievens painted many portraits of Rembrandt which are featured in the exhibit. It was recently discovered that the man holding the pipe in the following painting is Rembrandt at the tender age of 17 which means Lievens would have done this painting when he was only 16!

Lievens was a brilliant artist whose massive paintings and career became overshadowed by that of Rembrandt's and thus, faded from importance and art history.

He was a prodigy at an early age. He painted the following portrait when he was only 14 yeas old! Can you imagine someone so young being able to depict the facial nuance and character of an older woman? The brush strokes seen in this painting are amazing in person.

The following painting of Rembrandt's mother was purchased by a local area physician in the 1950s thinking it was a Rembrandt. It is now known that it was actually painted by Lievens.

It was breathtaking to see so many of Lievens wonderful paintings face to face and so close you could have touched them. No cordons at our museum!
Hope you enjoyed my mini Lievens art lecture and exhibit :)

In honor of the Dutch Master, here is my favorite recipe for Dutch Split Pea Soup or Erwtensoep~

Erwtensoep (Dutch Split Pea Soup)
Adapted from a recipe in The Junior League Centennial Cookbook

1 pound dried split peas
1 shank or butt end of smoked ham (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
3 large onions, chopped coarse
1 leek, thoroughly cleaned, halved lengthwise, and sliced crosswise
2 celery ribs, copped coarse
2 carrots, chopped coarse
1 potato, chopped coarse
2 teaspoons thyme
Freshly ground pepper
4 knockwurst, sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon hickory smoked salt (optional)
¼ cup chopped parsley

If the peas require soaking, soak overnight covered in water. Drain before starting the soup. Combine the ham with the peas and 3 quarts of water in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook 30 to 40 minutes, skimming frequently.

Add the onions, leek, celery, carrots and potato. Add the thyme and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer slowly, uncovered, for about 5 hours or until very thick, stirring occasionally.

Remove the ham shank. Discard the bone and cut the meat into small pieces and return to the soup with the optional sliced knockwurst 30 minutes before serving. Add the optional smoked salt and stir in the parsley. Serve with whole-grain bread and sweet butter.

Serves 8


  1. What a wonderful evening you had...naughty girl..stepping out like that!! lol

    I could and have literally spent hours in art museums! Was the first photo a self protrait by Lievens himself?

    Love split pea soup - best ever was in a Westin in Chicago on Michigan Ave...have always tried others so now I will give yours a try..the ingredients look like they would have the same flavor I'm looking for...

  2. Susan, sounds like a really nice evening out. Thanks for sharing the exhibit with us. The soup looks good... just thought about it and I have never had split pea soup. Maybe it's time... and if you liked the recipe, I'm sure I would too!

  3. Susan.. I ahve 2 paintings that remind me of this "genre".. ..They were in our family and are in our DNR..

    I have oils and pastels that my mom did at ap. 14.. that have that same soul.
    I'll send them to you..
    Have I?
    It is astounding to me that at her age.. she could depict such physionomies.
    I bet you did have a grand time.

  4. Thank you, Barb. Yes, it was a self-portrait. There were several at the exhibit, this was my favorite.

    Jayne, this is my all-time favorite recipe for split pea soup. I've never used the Knockwurst, just a smoked ham shank. Not everyone loves split pea soup - I do!

    Monique, I do remember your mother's paintings - especially the portrait of your brother as a very young child and a beautiful landscape, as I recall. My system for filing photos wasn't very good back then :(

  5. Susan, thank you for the art history lesson, an area in which I am lacking..
    His work is wonderful!
    And your soup looks delicious, I saw it on FG!

  6. Wonderful post, Susan. Milwaukee is fortunate to have such a wonderful exhibit.

    Thank you for the information on Lievens. I wasn't familiar with him. (However, after reading your post, I searched our museum's catalog and we have 1 pen and ink drawing by Lievens titled "Pilgrims at Rest".

    I really like most Rembrandts and the Dutch Masters style. Sounds like an informative and wonderful time.

    One of the reasons that John and I keep our museum membership is to attend the exhibit previews, special viewings, and other members only events. I've never been to one that I didn't thoroughly enjoy.

    I have a friend who became a docent at our museum after retiring. The training was extensive and intensive, several months of training sessions and outside studies. She loves it.

    Monique, how wonderful that you have paintings of your mother. You have such an artistic touch and style. You must have come by it naturally.

    Susan, your split pea soup looks tasty, although, I have to admit that I have never developed a taste for it. I think it's the texture.

  7. Thanks, Kathleen!

    Cynthia, thank you. Yes, the docent program is very vigorous here also. Many classes and information to learn initially and then manditory lectures and museum tours she must give yearly. My friend loves it too.

  8. I really enjoyed this art history lesson as well. Since you are so talented do you have an art major? I love split pea soup...wish DH did.

  9. What a wonderful opportunity for you. I think he looks a little bit like Johnny Depp in his self portrait. The detail is really incredible. I like the dalmation lady the best (okay maybe its not dalmation..ermine right?. Either way she is outstanding. Soup looks great too. I haven't made any split pea in a long while.Maybe this weekend.

  10. Besides the beautiful art, I thoroughly enjoyed this art history lesson. I have made split pea soup for our soup tasting parties, and I'd like to give yours a try for a different version.

  11. Thank you, Marsha. No art major, it's just a hobby for me. I have taken classes here and there.

    Thanks, Suzy...Dalmation lady - LOL! Yes, he does kind of look like Johnny Depp :)

    Debbie, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed reading about it too. I thought the whole story was so interesting.

  12. Love this post, Susan! LOL, @ Johnny Depp! I was thinking when I first read, he looks like a rocker from the 60's in his self portrait :)

    Enjoyed reading about Lievens, and the pictures, really interesting about Rembrandt's mother and yes, that painting at 14. Unbelievable!

    Soup looks great! When I made split pea, I used to add hot dogs instead of ham, growing up my grandma kept kosher, so we used short rib and hot dogs to flavor the soup. Now I use ham, will have to try your recipe with knockwurst. It looks so good!

  13. There is a slight resemblance to JD, lol!

    Mike loves split pea. I haven't made it in years. Susan, is a 5-hour simmer right? Seems like I remember the soup cooking in about an hour, but like I said ... it's been a few years.

    Carol, do the hotdogs add much flavor? I don't eat 'em, but Mike has a couple pkgs. that have been in the freezer for a long time. Be a great way to get rid of them!

  14. Wonderful post, Susan. Thank you for the little tour through your museum and sharing the exhibit.

    Split pea soup is a favorite of mine. The ham and sausage add so much flavor. Perfect for a rainy winter day.

  15. Beautiful artwork!

    I love split pea soup, and this looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Came back to answer, Cindy! the hot dogs add some flavor, and they taste good in the soup.

  17. Thank you for sharing about Jan Lievens (I am Dutch) AND the Dutch split pea soup - actually I have a funny story about making the soup "Showing my city roots" on my blog - castlestgermain(dot)blogspot(dot)com
    I"ll copy your chocolate recipe-sounds delicious! glad i found you, cheers.


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