Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Easy Peasy: Split Pea Soup and Bulgur Wheat & Herb Biscuits

Comfort food: Split Pea Soup
     Just back from vacation, this week I’ve been doing dinner on a budget. Post-vacation also means trouble getting back to routine and playing catch-up at work. So let’s say I’m being frugal, not only with money, but also with effort (though maybe not time).

     I had big plans for recipes to share with you, but ended up foraging my cupboards and making meals with items rediscovered therein. The great thing about limiting your options (by not buying anything new to cook with) is that it can be really satisfying. Some of my favorite meals have been composed impromptu, with only what I could find already in my kitchen.

     Split pea soup is easy. It takes about half an hour to chop and sauté all the veggies. Then, add the peas broth and water, and you’re basically done. You just have to stir occasionally. The transformation from dried peas in water into a hearty, thick soup takes place all on its own, hence my decision to make this recipe.

     But while the soup was cooking, I had too much time on my hands and decided to make an accompaniment, herb biscuits. Because they were a last minute addition, I rushed them and didn’t leave time for them to properly rise. If you’re making this, I recommend starting with the batter for the rolls. Then it can rise while you chop and sauté the vegetables. You’ll have plenty of time to finish the biscuits while the soup simmers.

Split Pea Soup
Difficulty: Ant Icon 32x32px
Time: 2 hours
Makes: 6 servings


1 bag split peas, rinsed and drained
2 cups carrots, chopped coarsely
2 cups celery, chopped coarsely
1 Large sweet onion, chopped coarsely
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
Water – fill to top of large pot (6 cups?)
1 cup mushroom or vegetable broth
¼ cup sherry (optional)
Ham, bacon or prosciutto (to taste, if using)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste (this is a large pot of soup, lots of salt and black pepper)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated


     Heat olive oil on medium in a large soup pot. Add onion, carrots and celery. Saute, stirring occasionally, until almost softened, but onions should not be translucent. Add garlic and sherry. Saute another 1-2 minutes to soften garlic. You want everything to cook, but not too much. It’s nice to have a chunkier texture to the finished soup.
Transformation beginning...

     Add mushroom broth, split peas, water, bay leaves, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, paprika and cayenne. (Add ham or pan crisped bacon or prosciutto now, if you’re opting to use meat.) Stir thoroughly and turn heat up to medium high – high. Let soup bubble gently (you may have to adjust temperature), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking for about 1 ½ hours or until thick, not brothy.

Almost finished, you can see it beginning to thicken

     Ladle into bowls, top with grated cheddar cheese and it’s done, simple and easy, satisfying comfort food.

Bulgur Wheat & Herb Biscuits (recipe based on http://chefinyou.com/2009/08/bulgur-dinner-rolls/):
Difficulty: Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32px
Time: About 1 hour, depending on rising times
Makes: 10 biscuits


1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup boiling water
1 envelop dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup milk
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour


     Place the cracked wheat (bulgur) into a bowl and pour out the boiling water over it. Cover and soak it for an hour until it has absorbed all the water.

     Preheat oven to 400F.

    Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir to dissolve.
Adding more flour until the dough is stiff

     Heat milk in a pan until it starts to bubble around the edges of the pan. Add the rosemary, thyme, olive oil, honey and salt and mix until all come together. Cool to lukewarm, add yeast mixture, cracked wheat and flour gradually until stiff.

     On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until elastic and smooth.

     Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a large bowl. Form a large ball with dough and place it in greased bowl. Drizzle a little more oil over the top and cover. Let it rise until doubled in size.
Biscuits rising.  They rise best in warm place.  You can trying turning your oven on to warm and placing the rising dough on top.

     Tear dough and shape into approx 10 balls (depending on the size), place them on a greased baking sheet and let rise again until almost doubled in size.

     Bake for 15-20 minutes or until risen and browned.

     Let cool and serve.
Mine didn't rise properly.  Yours should be much prettier!

     A note on the choice of meat: I sometimes do use a cured meat in my split pea soup (though I didn’t this time), but I tend to go really easy with the amount. The saltiness of the curing can overwhelm the split peas and vegetables. You can end up with salty, ham-flavored mush. Yuck. (I used to work for a brilliant cook who would add ham, bacon and prosciutto to his split pea soup. It was intensely salty, more like an indulgence than a hearty comforting soup. Then again, he did run a bar, maybe the saltiness was the point. What goes better with salt than beer?)

     If you are feeling like making an easy, no fuss meal, skip the biscuits and buy some rolls instead. However, the biscuits are really the canvas for the flavors of olive oil and herbs, which come through potently and deliciously. Excellent dipped in the split pea soup. Enjoy!

     Some final frugal advice: Make a large amount of a dish, then cart leftovers to work for lunch all week.  I even store leftovers in portion sized Tupperware in my fridge.  I get the really hard to open, lunch sized plastic containers from when I have food delivered or buy soup at the grocery store.  In the morning, I just grab and go.  It's easy and much more delicious than the expensive lunches offered near my office.

1 comment:

  1. How delightful! Yummy bone-warming soup with hearty whole grain biscuits! Makes me hungry just reading this and seeing the pictures!