Every time I think of split-pea soup, it reminds me of my Dad. He rarely cooks, but every now and again, he will bust out the crock pot and make some soup, sauerkraut or tomato sauce. I even have some vague memories of him stopping, while driving at random dinners in New York because he knew they had good split-pea soup. I am not even sure if my Dad follows a specific recipe or just wings it, but the results are always delicious and the soup usually contains bacon, ham or some other pork product, which I must unfortunately omit.
I had been hard pressed to find split-peas in Bulgaria, so once I attempted to make it with regular whole dried peas. The results were less than savory, so I decided to wait till I had actual split-peas to try it again. Luckily for me, we have Perfetto an odd Italian grocery store in Kyustendil, yes in Kyustendil. We have an uncommonly high number of Italians that reside here, so this grocery store was created to sell products that were direct from Italy. It is odd because, they chose a horrible location inside an industrial park and they never advertised properly. In order to compete with Kaufland and Fantastico, they began to serve niche markets, such as products from original Italian products and organic items. The organic items they sold would rival any shop in Sofia, but I think I was the only one buying them. Back to the point, they sold organic split peas! Perfetto is closed now, but I will mourn its loss as I have to schlep my ass to Sofia once again for organic and unique food items.
Since I am on the Liver Cleanse Diet, I need to adjust the recipe to exclude, meat and dairy. I looked around the web for vegan and vegetarian split-pea soup recipes and landed on one of my favorite site 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson. Her split-pea recipe and others are almost always delicious, but I wanted to jazz it up to give the most flavor possible, so here is my adaptation.
Vegan Split-Pea Soup
2 tbsp (30 ml) Olive Oil
2 lg. Onions chopped
2 cups (450 ml) Split-Peas (rinsed and picked over)
6 cups (1.4 lt.) Homemade Vegetable Stock (or Homemade Chicken if you want non-Vegan)
1 Lemon, juiced and zested (reserve zest)
2 md. Carrots, cut into even sized pieces, about 1/2″ (1.25 cm)
3 lg. cloves of Garlic
4 – 5 Sprigs of Thyme
4 -5 Sprigs of Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
4 – 5 whole Black Peppercorns
In a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When hot add the onions and stir occasionally till soft about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and the garlic and sauté till the garlic is fragrant about 2 minutes.
Gather the thyme, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns. Wrap in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine leaving some stack to secure to the pot handle for easy removal.
Add the stock, split peas and spice bundle or bouquet garni.
Bring to a boil for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking partially covered for about an hour till the split peas are cook thoroughly. Depending on the age and freshness of the peas, this could vary significantly.
Once the peas are done, remove from heat and puree to your desired consistency, I prefer a little chunkiness. You can use a blender, food processor or hand-mixer.
Return the soup to the pot and heat again adding the lemon juice, start with half and work your way to the desired flavor, it should be clean and bright, then season with salt and pepper.
Optional: garnish with lemon zest, chives, parsley or thyme.