It’s hard to make the drab color of split pea soup look beautiful, but just use your imagination.
For quick lunches lately I have resorted to canned soups. Sacrilege for a foodie. I know. But it’s real food, easy, and nutritious since I buy soups from a wonderful local company, Amy’s Kitchen. I was eating their split pea the other day and thought, not only had I never made it myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever tasted it freshly made. Why had it strangely remained absent from my repertoire? My mom never made it when I was growing up, maybe because pork and I were not on speaking terms.
Then I realized, I only had two associations with split pea soup. One was that my grandmother (Doe), had bought herself a piping hot cup to eat on the road between northern California (where she lived) and Santa Barbara (where I lived at the time) and promptly spilled it all over her lap while driving. The other association I had was that a friend of mine hated it.
It’s also not a soup that is generally offered in a vegetarian version in restaurants. So it was with these notions banging around in my head, that I found myself in the bulk section scooping green split peas into a bag. Not totally knowing what to expect, I checked out a couple recipes on the Internet and came up with a plan (I rarely use an actual recipe, word-for-word when I cook).
Little pile of split peas
The result was delicious, hearty, cheap and quick. Seriously, all the ingredients (except the bay leaves) were organic and the total cost was under $5. Chopping to belly, the soup took about an hour. One of my favorite time saving tricks, is to fill the kettle with water, get it boiling while I prep and sauté the aromatics (veg), and then add the hot water I need to the pot. It saves at least 5 or 10 minutes since the water doesn’t lower the temp of the soup pot, and gets to a rolling boil again almost immediately.
This could easily be a weeknight, worked-late, gimme-food-now kind of satisfying fast meal. I think dried beans and legumes have gotten a bad rap for taking an eon, but they really are good wholesome foods that don’t have to take forever. The recipes that call for a hamhock take three hours or something, but this vegetarian alternative is a great quick way to go.
Vegetarian Split Pea Soup (serves 6 as long as you don’t burn the bottom, then it serves 4)
2 C. split peas (picked through for stones, then rinsed)
2 med. carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
2 small to medium potatoes, diced
8 C. water
2 bay leaves
salt/pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped (oregano would work great here too)
Boil water in kettle. Sauté carrots, celery and onion with a little salt and pepper.
Add water and split peas, cook 15 minutes, covered.
Add potatoes and cook another 20-30 minutes at a simmer (not a high boil, since the starch can settle and burn before you know it). Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Be sure to check on it often in those last 15 minutes or so. I gave mine a good stir at about 35 minutes, and then Marc stirred it 5 minutes later and found that it had begun to burn. We lost about 1-2 cups of soup to the fire god at the bottom of the pan, but had caught it in time to enjoy a very tasty soup. I didn’t know that it really is best to cook it a little longer at a lower temperature, rather than boiling for a shorter time. Live and learn.
When the peas are soft and have fallen apart, turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves and add the fresh herbs. The soup is very tasty garnished with plain yogurt, sour cream or freshly grated Parmesan cheese. For a tasty vegetarian alternative to garnishing with bacon, smoked paprika works wonders. Enjoy!