Most split pea soups have some type of meat as flavoring – ham hock or bone, bacon, ribs – but I almost always keep mine fit for a vegetarian. Occasionally I might use chicken stock, but as like as not water or vegetable stock will be my choice. It is such a simple soup to make that a mid-afternoon stint in the kitchen will create a lovely warming dinner on a cold winter’s day. And, to top it off a bag of split peas – yellow or green – will usually set you back somewhere around a dollar.
There are a myriad of variations to the basic recipe. You can add almost any herb or spice you like – I opt for curry powder (about 2 teaspoons) and/or a big spoonful of chopped fresh dill. You can add chopped cooked sausage, ham, or any smoked meat to turn the soup into a hearty meal. You can chill it and serve with fresh mint and sour cream. And on it goes – just get the basic down and go from there.
1 pound split green or yellow split peas
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, well-washed, trimmed, and chopped
3 quarts water, vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Combine the peas, carrot, onion, and celery in a large saucepan. Add the water and place over high heat. Bring to a boil; then, season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about an hour or until the peas have disintegrated and the soup is thick. You may have to add more liquid as the soup cooks down.
Remove from the heat and either puree directly in the pan using a hand-held immersion blender or pour the soup into a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree.
Return the soup to a clean saucepan. Add the lemon juice and taste. If necessary, season with additional salt, pepper, and Tabasco. If the soup is very thick, you can thin with stock or heavy cream. I like to drizzle a little heavy cream or thinned plain yogurt on top before serving or sometimes I add a handful of crisp rye or sour dough croutons.