Pois cassé, masculine noun (le pois cassé, des pois cassés) = a split pea (pronounced pwah cassay)
un pois (les pois, des pois) = pea; cassé = broken (from the verb casser, to break)
Un petit pois = a green pea, un pois chiche = a chick pea, un pois gourmand, or un pois mange-tout = a sugar snap pea, un pois de senteur = a sweetpea.
The ultimate comfort food (at least I think so), split peas as a vegetable or in soup, are useful pulses and a source of easily digestible dietary fibre. They are also rich in protein, minerals and slow release sugars. They are cheap, and do not need soaking, so you don’t have to start to think about them a day ahead of time. They will cook in half an hour or so. As with other pulses, they should only be salted at the end of the cooking time or they will become tough.
Used in soup, they can be cooked alone or with onion,maybe using ham stock, and served either just like that, or with a topping made of fried crispy bacon bits and garlic.
My recipe, saucisse de Morteau aux pois cassés, uses them as a purée, a sort of a purée, in fact they are left just as they are when they are sufficiently cooked. Not to be confused with English “mushy peas”, not the same thing at all.
A word about saucisse de Morteau: this is a chunky, smoked, regional French pork sausage from the town of Morteau in the Doubs region, eastern France. It is usually boiled whole and served with sauerkraut, or mashed potato. I doubt that outside France you will find one. For French readers, Leclerc’s range “Nos Régions ont du Talent” do an excellent one, photographed here. A good Polish smoked sausage will do the trick as a substitute elsewhere.
Instead of boiling the sausage, I have cut thick slices and fried them, using no extra grease whatsoever in the pan. The sausage is rather fatty, and this method of frying creates crispy slices and you will be surprised at the amount of grease it releases in the pan (rather than going into your stomach).
For two to three people you will need:
- one Saucisse de Morteau, or smoked Polish sausage (about 4 cm across, 20cm long)
- 300gr of split peas
- salt, pepper
- Wash and pick over the split peas to ensure there are no little stones left in them.
- Place them in a large saucepan with four times their volume of water.
- Bring to the boil, reduce the heat (they boil over easily and make a terrible mess) and simmer for about half an hour, testing regularly to see whether they are soft.
- When soft, add a little salt, stir and cook for a further two minutes.
- Do not drain, serve directly from the saucepan with a holey spoon. Any remaining peas and water can be used for soup the next day.
- In the meantime (ten minutes before the peas are ready), cut the sausage into slices 1 to 1½cm thick and fry briskly in a non stick pan until browned and crispy.
- Serve the slices of fried sausage with a generous helping of split peas.
- Adjust the seasoning and add a little freshly ground pepper.