Split pea soup was a favorite during my college days – inexpensive, filling and straightforward to prepare. I liked to add smoked bacon and lots of carrots. I may not be a college girl anymore, but I still feel the same way about split soup – it’s a satisfying soup for cold days and evenings. I prefer using yellow peas, which I find to be prettier and more delicate in flavor than the green variety. They are a perfect backdrop for more assertive ingredients like bacon and spices.
Split peas are actually a pea variety grown specifically for drying. They are often used for soup making because they act as a thickener and almost fall apart as they cook. Unlike beans, split peas don’t need soaking, making this soup a simple soup standby.
Split Pea Soup with Yam and Cumin includes the sweet yam along with the aromatic and bold cumin flavor. You’ll be surprised at how harmonious these flavors are together. If you add more broth and thin it out, you could serve this soup as a first course. This is a family standard at our house on cold days.
The other version, Yellow Split Pea Soup With Mushrooms and Smoked Turkey, is definitely fit for a main course. This simple soup has a couple of surprises: smoked turkey instead of the usual ham and a garnish of shredded sugar snap or Chinese peas for a garden-sweet crunch. Most of the turkey goes in right before serving, so the texture is preserved.
Whichever soup you choose, make sure to serve it alongside a bright green salad tossed with toasted pine nuts, sweet cherry tomatoes and an assertive lemon vinaigrette. Bread is a must for this rustic hearty meal. Depending upon my mood I might add warm crusty French or sourdough rolls, thick slices of whole wheat bread or even cheese bread. A glass of a Rhone varietal like Syrah or Shiraz will bring it all together. Serve sliced pears and sharp cheddar cheese for a perfect ending.
• Check for and discard pebbles, and then rinse the peas in a large strainer before cooking.
• Add extra fresh herbs to brighten the flavor.
• Use green split peas instead of the yellow, and add a 10 ounce package frozen peas after the split peas are cooked.
• To make this a vegetarian soup, use vegetable broth, omit meat, and for a smoky flavor add some chipotle or ancho chile powder or chipotle puree.
• For added flavor, add a peeled and diced parsnip or winter squash when you add the carrot.
• These soups may be prepared up to four days in advance and refrigerated. You may also freeze the soup. Make sure to adjust the seasonings and add fresh herbs when you reheat the frozen soup.
Worthington can be reached at seriouslysimple.com.