Split peas are an excellent source of protein, folate and fiber. Add some vegetables and a few thick slices of bread for dunking, and you've got a deeply satisfying meal that's low in fat and high in nutrition.
To Soak or Not to Soak
It's true, soaking peas overnight in water shortens their cooking time. But soaking isn't entirely necessary. Split peas cook relatively quickly. Unsoaked peas take from 1 to 2 hours of simmering; soaked peas take about 40 minutes. Also, the only difference between yellow and green split peas is color.
- Split peas absorb lots of water as they cook, so check the soup often and add liquid as needed.
- The peas only need to be cooked until they are tender. But if you like a smoother, creamier texture, cook them longer until they soften and fall apart.
- If you like really silky soup, take the extra step of pureeing the peas once they have softened. This is a great job for your immersion blender if you have one, but you can also do it in batches in your regular countertop blender.
Fill 'er Up
Ham, bacon, and sausage all go exceptionally well with peas. One of the most traditional ways of making split pea soup is to flavor it with ham bones. Most recipes include onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes. In the herb department, bay leaves, thyme, mint, marjoram, rosemary, and parsley are all delicious additions. If you like to flavor your soup with tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, wine or any other acidic ingredients, wait until the end of cooking to add these, or else the acid will prevent the uncooked split peas from getting soft.
When the peas are soft and the veggies are cooked, stir in your favorite seasonings and keep on tasting until it's just right. We like to add salt, freshly cracked black pepper, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Ladle the piping hot soup into big bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, some minced fresh parsley or mint, and a few crispy croutons.