Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

Green & Yellow Split Peas (c) jfhaugen

The Elusive Nature of Spring

Okay, it just came to me. I grew up in Southern California where spring was similar to summer just a bit cooler and with enough days of rain for months of beautiful flowers. I guess (even after 25 years) I haven’t yet adjusted to springtime in Montana where one day the sun is shining brightly on blooming tulips and daffodils,Pink Tulip in my front garden (c) jfhaugen and the next day we have snow and below freezing temperatures. In reality, this is the nature of spring everywhere but in Southern California—it’s not elusive, it’s just the nature of spring. I feel better already.

So with all of this cooler spring weather, I decided to stay indoors and prepare a pot of Split Pea Soup to fragrance the house and warm our bones. This is a soup I’ve never had a real recipe for. But after carefully measuring ingredients and recording all my actions I now have an accurate recipe for myself and to share with you.

Five reasons this Vegetarian Split Pea Soup is so good
The basic technique for this recipe came from Chef Greg Maloy (who I tried but couldn’t find a link for). He is the one who taught me to
1)     only use water rather than stock,
2)     add garlic, and
3)     cook the peas with a fourth of the veggies until the peas dissolve into the broth. This trick alone makes for an easily digested, wonderfully creamy and rich tasting soup.
Based on info I learned during the years I ate macrobiotically,
4)     I cook the split peas with a piece of kombu (this is the Green & Yellow Split Peas (c) jfhaugenJapanese name for kelp, a key ingredient in the Japanese soup stock known as dashi). Kombu adds additional minerals to the soup as it cooks along with the split peas.
5)     And, I use half green and half yellow split peas.

Some like it chunky
I know that some people prefer Split Pea Soup thin and creamy and thus purée everything to make it so. My preference is for a thicker soup that is so chunky with veggies it’s a meal in itself. The choice is yours. Either way Split Pea Soup is not elusive at all. It is easy to make, very satisfying and comforting whatever the season.

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup (c) jfhaugenVegetarian Split Pea Soup

Naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.

Makes 12 cups

½ pound green split peas (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
½ pound yellow split peas (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
15 cups water
3 fresh thyme sprigs (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves)
1 4-inch piece kombu, optional
2 bay leaves
Diced Potatoes (c) jfhaugen1 large onion, 1/3 inch dice (divided)
2 cups celery, 1/3 inch dice (divided)
2 cups carrots, 1/3 inch dice (divided)
1 large clove garlic crushed and divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
Dozen twists freshly ground pepper
3 cups potatoes, ½ inch dice (regular and/or sweet potatoes), stored in water
¼ cup chopped parsley for garnish

Wash and drain the split peas and place them in a large soup pot along with the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat so the water simmers. White foam (water-soluble protein released from the peas) will form on the surface. It is not necessary to remove it as it will be reabsorbed as the soup cooks.

Kombu (c) jfhaugenStir in the thyme, kombu, bay leaves and ½ cup each diced onion, carrot and celery, and one-fourth of the crushed garlic. Partially cover the pot and cook for about 75 minutes* until the split peas become quite soft and dissolve into the liquid. Stir the pot occasionally, though especially during the last half hour or so to keep the peas from sticking.

Note: if the peas do stick, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Wait 5 minutes and you will be able to easily stir them loose. Add a cup of water and continue cooking.

While the peas are cooking, put the oil into a sauté pan over medium heat. When hot stir in the remaining diced onion. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Stir in the remaining diced carrot and celery and garlic. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and a dozen twists of freshly ground pepper. Cook for another five minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Turn off the heat.

When the peas are quite soft and most have dissolved into the liquid, stir in the drained diced potatoes along with the lightly cooked vegetables. Add the remaining 1½ teaspoons salt. If the soup is very thick, add another cup or more of water to thin it to your liking. Cook the soup partially covered for another 20 minutes.

Purée 2½ cups of the soup in a blender and return it to the pot. Adjust the seasoning and consistency to your taste. Serve garnished with the chopped parsley.

Split pea soup thickens as it cools, so you may want to add additional water and adjust the seasoning when/if you reheat it.

*Your actual cooking time may vary. I’ve had peas cook for two hours before softening. Be willing to let them cook as long as needed, adding more water as the water in the pot evaporates and is absorbed by the peas.

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