November 19th, 2018

Moving to a more plant based diet many years ago gave me the opportunity to work with a really underrated ingredient - dried beans, peas and lentils, a.k.a. legumes. They are simply mature beans that are dried and then removed from their pods. They are virtually the perfect food, full of flavor, very versatile to use, very inexpensive and nutritionally dense with protein, dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates.

In some parts of the culinary world, legumes date back over 7000 years. According to some, the Greeks and Romans started cultivating legumes around 500 to 400 BC. Split Pea soup is one dish that has been eaten since antiquity. It is mentioned in Aristophanes' comedy The Birds that is known to have been performed around 414 BC. During that era, street vendors were selling hot bowls of split pea soup in the streets of Athens.
Split peas are high in protein and low in fat. Most of the calories come from protein and complex carbohydrates. The split peas contain some of the highest amounts of dietary fiber, about 26 grams of fiber per 100 gram portion. With an average intake of just 15 grams of dietary fiber per day, most Americans consume far less fiber than the recommended amount. This is largely an effect of the standard American diet, which emphasizes animal proteins and boxed processed foods over fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

So give your body a much need fiber boost with a bowl of this easy-to-prepare soup. It's just the thing to warm you up on a cold winter day. I've taken out the traditional ham hock and pork or chicken stock. The soup tastes just as good if you sweat out the vegetables over a longer period of time (without burning them of course). This is a vegetarian split pea soup that I'm sure the whole family will like.

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cups leeks, washed, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt (optional) and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, unpeeled, cut into small dice
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, stems removed
2 bay leaves
1 ½ cups green split peas
6 cups low sodium vegetable stock
*2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Sour cream and whole wheat croutons (for serving; optional)

How to make:

Pour the oil into a large saucepan and place over a medium heat.
Add the onions, leeks, celery and garlic, season with the salt and pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the diced potatoes and cook for a further 8 to 10 minutes until the potatoes soften, then add the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and spilt peas, then pour over the stock.
Bring to the boil, turn down the heat to a simmer, allow to cook for another 45 minutes, until the lentils are falling apart. Add the Worcestershire sauce, taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed, remove the bay leaf, then carefully pour half of the soup into your blender and blend for 45 to 60 seconds until smooth, pour into a clean saucepan, and repeat the process with the remaining soup. Serve soup with sour cream and croutons or some warm whole wheat bread, enjoy on a cold winters day!!!

*You can buy a vegan friendly Worcestershire sauce if you desire.


Chef Mark .