You will be reading this well after Christmas is over. However, I write in its wake, the season of the most delicious leftovers of the year. How I love them and next year, I promise to give you some timely hints about what can be done to convert the detritus of your Christmas dinner into mouth-watering culinary delights.
Last year, I shared thoughts with you on pulses. In February, there was a recipe for dhal and in July I suggested how you might make a lentil salad. Here, I am going to talk about split peas, yet another member of the pulse family but one, I suspect that is no longer much in fashion. In any case, I find that I cannot obtain them in my local supermarket and have to go further afield to a delicatessen. Dried peas are a food with an impressive history. They have been consumed since prehistoric times; their fossilized remains have been found at archaeological sites in Swiss lake villages. Peas are mentioned in the Bible and were prized in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Strangely, for thousands of years, dried peas were mainly eaten in dried form. It was not until the 16th century, when cultivation techniques created more tender varieties of the garden pea, that people began to consume them in their fresh, rather than in their dried, state. They are highly nutritious and are rich in both protein and dietary fibre. In these trying times, it is also worth emphasising that they are cheap to buy! Have I sold them to you? I hope so. There are many variations of the recipe for split pea soup. Here is mine.
Split Pea Soup
125 ml olive oil
2 medium sized onions, finely chopped
2 medium sized green peppers, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
500g split peas
1.5l ham water
2 bay leaves
350 g sliced chorizo (optional).
2-3 tablespoons vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
paprika to garnish
Sauté the onions and peppers in the oil for 10 minutes.
Add the potatoes and toss to coat in the oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the garlic and split peas and stir.
Pour in the ham water. Bring to the boil, reduce to medium heat, add the bay leaves and simmer for 1½ – 2 hours, until the peas have disintegrated.
Season with salt and pepper during the last hour of cooking. Grill or griddle the chorizo slices for 6 minutes, if using. (Chorizo is fatty. If wary of animal fat, you could throw away the resultant fat at this stage. I confess that I always add it to the soup!) Remove the bay leaves, purée the soup in a blender and stir in the vinegar.
Serve in bowels with the chopped chorizo – if you are using it – and a sprinkling of paprika on top. This is a thick soup that will warm and comfort you.