Happy Curried Split Pea Soup

Well, that was a long blog hiatus, friends!

I have to admit – I’ve been in a cooking funk. I can blame in on a lot of things: a busy work load, the cold weather, a series of mediocre cooking experiments, my schedule not allowing me to visit the farmers’ market, or perhaps my CSA going dormant for a few months… Regardless, my food choices of late have been rather uninspired, and not from lack of trying. But the days are longer, everything is gorgeously flowering in North Carolina, and I hope to be back consistently to share my food adventures!

North Carolina Flowering Pear

So where does that bring us? Ah, this split pea soup. This was one of those “food characters” that would appear in the books of my youth – where miserable yet brave young orphans were sent to their drafty, garret rooms with a meager, watery portion of split pea soup by their negligent caretakers. Alone with their bowl, hands tired from a day’s hard labor, the nobly suffering children were left to dream about a brighter future. Ugly things were the color of split pea soup, and for me the mere mention of the name brings up feelings of both pity and disgust. But had I ever had split pea soup? No! And goodness, what a lovely treat a bowl of this stuff is. If I had to write a children’s book, this soup would star as the filling, warming, lovely food to fuel a day where our sweet protagonist explores in the woods, daydreams in a comfortable chair, and curls up with a good book. Bright green, with a flavorful punch, this is a soup of happiness.

Split peas

A few technical details about the recipe: first, make sure you rinse your split peas. It took several washes for me to get the peas to stop “foaming” the water, and also to allow excess chaff pieces to float up and out of the mix. Second, the only special equipment you’ll need is a stick (immersion) blender, and you can easily use a normal blender instead — just blend in smallish batches to avoid a soup explosion.

And what do you get? A meal that is dead simple, made of pantry ingredients, and surprisingly delicious. It’s high in protein and fiber, super cheap, and very filling. Perfect for a graduate student! The saffron was a gift from a friend during her last visit to Spain, and adds depth to the flavor profile (an addition not in the original recipe). Serve it garnished with some crème fraîche or yogurt to dress it up (although the green pea color is perfectly festive for the spring). I can see this serving equally well as a main with pieces of toast, or  a side dish or starter to a larger meal. This soup is going into my permanent rotation, stat!

Curried Split Pea Soup

Curried Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Alton Brown
Serves 5-6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 16 ounces (one bag) dried green or yellow split peas, rinsed and picked over
  • 7 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
  • Pinch of saffron

Directions

  1. Melt the butter into a large (4 to 6-quart) saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, making certain not to allow onions or garlic to brown.
  4. Add the peas, chicken broth and curry powder. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook at a simmer until the peas are tender and not holding their shape any longer, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Take it off the heat and, carefully, puree the soup with a stick blender until it is the desired consistency. Don’t splatter and hurt yourself!
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