Cold finally overcomes procrastination: Valerie’s Split Pea Soup

by Marion on January 3, 2018

Bacon, plentiful aromatics and a bit of cumin create a hearty split pea soup you’ll make again and again. Recipe below.

Valerie's Split Pea Soup

Dear Valerie,

So here’s the thing. It’s cold. It’s really cold. I’ve been sitting in my kitchen holding a big steaming mug of coffee and wearing a  turtleneck and a down vest and a hoodie, with the hood up, and wool socks and lined pants, and I’m thinking about putting on more clothing, but I’ve been reluctant because I’d like to continue being able to bend my arms and legs. All of this has made me think of what I want for dinner, which reminded me of that recipe you sent me, for one of the best things ever—split pea soup.

go-to-the-recipeI don’t know why it took so long for me to get around to making your recipe.

That is a total lie. I do know why. It’s because Terry and I are the Prince and Princess of Procrastination. Why do a thing today if you can put it off until tomorrow, or next year, or the year after that? Which, um, it appears I did with your recipe, which I see you sent me in, er, 2015. However, on the flip side, the elapsed time between me finding the recipe today and starting to cook it was about 17 minutes.

I did tinker with your notes a little bit, but only a little. I used thick-cut bacon instead of ham, and I added parsnips because we love parsnips, and I pureed half of the soup at the end, but otherwise this is your great recipe, including the dash of cumin, which gives this a mysterious something extra, and I love it so much.

There is a bit of upfront prep work with this recipe in the form of vegetable peeling and chopping. You peel and hack up a foothill of carrots—okay, it’s only a cup or so, but it makes an impressive mound. (Pro tip: do not chop carrots, or anything else for that matter, while listening to “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” on the radio—you will get entirely too reckless.) And then you peel and hack up further piles of potatoes and parsnips and onions. But then, once everything goes into the pot, there is not much else to do outside of a bit of stirring and tasting. And in the end, as you told me, you have a giant pot of really excellent soup.

For those who are not Valerie, yes, this can be made in multiples, you can double this, you can triple it, you can make a vat the size of Lake Huron although that would be awkward. You can freeze it for future reference, but it is so soothing and satisfying and economical that you will probably just dine on it for the next two or three days while feeling soothed and comfortable. You cannot beat this recipe.

In sum, my apologies for doodling around and not cooking your recipe until today. When I really needed it, it was there, and it is excellent, and I know I am going to make it hundreds of times. Thank you so much, lovely friend.

Valerie’s Split Pea Soup
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 pound thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup or so chopped onion (one medium onion)
1 cup or so peeled, diced carrot
2/3 cup or so peeled, diced parsnip (one medium parsnip)
2 bay leaves
2 – 4 cloves garlic, minced—depending on how much you like garlic
1/4 teaspoon cumin (see Kitchen Notes)
1 pound dried green split peas (no need to pre-soak)
1 pound or so potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 or more cups of liquid (see Kitchen Notes)
black pepper

Chop the bacon into small pieces. Sauté it until it is lightly brown. Remove the bacon from the pan and pour off most of the fat—leave one or two tablespoons. Add the olive oil to the pan, then pour in the onions, carrots and parsnips and sauté until the onions are wilted and clear.

Add the bay leaves, garlic and cumin—stir, then add the split peas, 6 cups of liquid and finally the potatoes. Grate black pepper over the whole thing, stir one more time, then bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover (leaving a little gap for some steam to escape).

Stir occasionally to prevent sticking, and check to ensure there is enough liquid—if the soup is getting too stiff and dry before it is soft and done, add more stock or water. It will be done in about 45 minutes.

Locate and discard the bay leaves. When the soup has cooled a bit, put half of it in the blender and purée it. Return the purée to the pot, mix everything together, and you are ready to serve.

You’ll note there was no salt added to the soup; bacon and broth will add some salt. Pass the salt shaker at the table and let dinner guests season to taste.

Kitchen Notes

Can I leave out the cumin? Don’t worry, the final soup doesn’t taste of cumin. But please don’t omit it—it really does make a subtle difference.

Chicken stock? Water? What? I used 2 cups of stock and 4 cups of water. Honestly, you can just use water and that will be fine.

Can I make it vegan? Yes, you can leave out the bacon and and use only water, with no stock, to make this meat free.

What goes with this? This split pea soup is a meal on its own, but if you wish, you can serve it with a sandwich. If my sister were here, she would say: salami. A grilled cheese sandwich or just some cheddar on crackers works too. We had this with toast slathered with Dorothy’s Comeback Cow Soft Ripened Cheese, a “cheese with real character” from Dorothy’s Cheese in Lena, Illinois. The whole thing was out of this world.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John/Kitchen Riffs January 3, 2018 at 8:50 am

Split pea soup is wonderful at this time of the year! Particularly this year when soup actually makes a practical breakfast — it’s SO COLD! As you noted. :-) Thanks, and Happy New Year!

Barbara Fazio January 3, 2018 at 9:28 pm

Love usual split pea soup, adding cumin, a bit more than suggested, upped my love. Just used one of those pot blenders. No mess. Bacon was better than ham. Cold coming soon to AZ! In freezer for next round. Thx.

Marion January 3, 2018 at 10:09 pm

HAPPY NEW YEAR John!

Barbara, split pea soup is always a love fest, it seems to me. Stay warm!

Dani H January 3, 2018 at 10:28 pm

Can’t wait to fix this, Marion. I especially love that it freezes well since I am only cooking for me. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

Happy Happy New Year!

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