I feel that I can almost chart my culinary life with pea soup. It was the first dish I learned to “cook” at age six, and, as with other North Americans of my vintage, it involved a can of Campbell’s Split Pea. Mastering that canned soup gave me confidence to tackle bigger challenges, such as grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs. Onward and [not always] upward!
At least once a month throughout my childhood, my mother, who never lost her Depression-era frugality, served us a big pot of homemade split pea soup for dinner, a family favorite. And later, during my own poor years, Mom’s lessons about cooking on the cheap proved useful when I realized that a week’s worth of delicious soup dinners could be made from a then 50-cent bag of dried split peas and a ham hock. Although my poor years are behind me now, good old split pea soup is still often on the menu at my house in fall and winter.
But, hey, a little variety is welcome, even in pea soup. In this recipe, which includes a vegetarian option, I have opted for a freshened up, more delicately-flavored approach using fresh or frozen peas, ginger, cilantro, ground coriander, cream, and a touch of green chilies. This quick and easy soup, which is modeled on the classic Indian dish of hara shorva, requires only ten minutes of cook’s time. Start to finish, it can be on the table in 40 minutes or less.
1 medium-sized potato, peeled and quartered
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and sliced
A one-inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/4 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound fresh or frozen green (English) peas
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced hot green (serrano or similar) chilies
1/2 cup lightly packed, coarsely chopped cilantro (fresh coriander greens)
1/3 cup cream, half-and-half, or coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a stock pot, combine the potato, onion, fresh ginger, garlic, broth, ground coriander, and ground cumin. Bring to a boil and simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the peas, green chili, and cilantro to the stock pot. Simmer for an additional 3-4 minutes or until the peas are just cooked through but still brightly colored.
- Ladle the contents of the stock pot into the container of a blender or food processor (in batches if necessary) and puree the mixture. Add the cream, half-and-half, or coconut milk and pulse a couple more times until incorporated. Return the soup to the stock pot, stir, and briefly reheat. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed, by adding salt and pepper to suit your taste. Serves 4-6.