I love a church that thinks to itself: Hey, we have a fantastic location on Trafalgar Square, and there is so much unused space downstairs in that old crypt… let’s start a little business to fund our programs for the homeless. What to do? Hmm, let’s open a fabulous café to serve the masses of tourists during the day, and host jazz concerts at night.
Really, a brilliant plan. And that is exactly what St. Martin’s in the Fields has done. Let me fill you in on this hidden jewel. Tucked beneath the church in a dramatic, brick-vaulted crypt, this café serves a range of affordable British favorites cafeteria-style. And beneath your feet are historic tombstones. Decidedly an unusual setting.
To be honest, I’ve only been there for lunch, as it is the perfect place to regroup after a morning of touring in Central London. Delicious sandwiches, salads, soups and hot entrees are offered – as well as lovely puddings (often with cream poured over the top). The place is cozy and the food has a home-cooked feeling to it. Breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner are also available.
Last time Sarah and I were in London, we stopped in for a bite after an extended wander through Covent Garden. I had a lovely bowl of soup and some crusty bread… which came to mind this morning as I was craving soup.
Split pea soup has always been a favorite in House Morell. Let’s be honest – I could put ham in almost anything and it would become a house favorite. But this truly is a fantastic soup for a miserable winter’s day… Thick and hearty, filled with herbs and lots of black pepper, and a touch of sherry to provide a bit of richness.
I wonder if there’s a crypt tucked under Trinity? Unlikely…
Split Pea Soup with Ham and a Bit of Sherry
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 1 pound dried split peas
- 1 ham bone, or 2 cups cubed ham
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- One-half cup dry sherry
In a large dutch oven, saute the onions and carrots until translucent – about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the sherry. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about two hours, stirring occasionally. If it becomes too thick for your taste, add more broth. Add the sherry and simmer for 30 minutes. Adjust the seasonings if necessary and serve hot, with a generous sprinkle of black pepper.
Serves 8 to 10