Thank goodness fats are no longer considered a toxic substance. I did my nutrition studies during the height of the low fat is healthy years. Just imagine how confused I felt when I ran my own numbers and discovered my daily pattern reflected 40% calories from fat. That was just 20 years ago and as you know things have changed.
My split pea soup depends on fat to bring out the flavor of aromatic vegetables – onion, carrot, and celery. Finely chopped and sweated in lots of olive oil, this mirepoix adds color, hearty flavor, and sweetness to the soup. Without that generous dose of olive oil, the recipe just wouldn’t be so delicious.
Salt of course is the other critical component. Running my own numbers has its ups and downs. I learned I use too much fat but I also learned I under salt. Salt is critical to good cooking but if you know your way around the kitchen you know how to squeeze flavor out of all the ingredients so there’s no need to use so much salt.
Recipe writing is not my strength. I do provide proportion but in both metric and common measure and some instruction. But recipe writing is not my strength so if you’re a beginning cook and need basic instruction or technique, I suggest you check out a website like Simple Recipes or New York Times Recipe Box or one of the reputable collections available via the internet.
Let me reassure you that messing up a split pea soup is really hard. Burnt onions. Rancid olive oil. Confusing table salt with kosher flake salt. These are mess ups. But proportions of split peas to onion, carrots, celery can be highly variable as can the amount of liquid. So making this soup is good practice for trying your hand at no recipe cooking.
RECIPE for 3 liters (12 cups)
• 500 grams split peas (2 1/2 cups – generous pound)
• 400 grams mirepoix ( 1 1/4 cup chopped onion; generous 3/4 cup chopped carrot; generous 2/3 cup diced celery)
• 100 grams olive oil (7 1/2 tablespoons)
• 2 to 3 liters water or stock (8 to 12 cups)
• 12 grams salt (4 teaspoons kosher flaked salt or 2 teaspoons table/coarse sea salt)
Start by rinsing the split peas. Then gently sweat chopped onions in olive oil until golden browned and aromatic at least 30 minutes. The longer the onions sizzle softly in the oil the more aromatic they get. Add carrots and celery and sauté another 30 minutes. Now add liquid, split peas, herbs of choice, salt, and gently simmer partially partially covered until split peas are fully softened and starting to fall apart. Pass the soup through a food mill for an even textured consistency.
INGREDIENTS – Good flavor starts with sourcing the best ingredients. Look for split peas from the most current harvest. Sometimes these dates are hard to find. Store managers often really don’t know and in all due respect many could care less. Best to buy from a trusted supplier. As for the olive oil, no reason to use your best. High heat destroys some of the healthful properties and delicate taste aromatics. I use an every day extra virgin olive oil from California. As for the liquid use water or vegetable stock or chicken stock in any combination. What’s important is the final volume, about 3 liters or 12 cups.
NUTRITION – I run numbers on all my recipes but I don’t post label results, however I’m happy to send you those numbers if you want them so just let me know.
I prefer using common measure. Most folks can visualize a cup of soup and once you know a cup of soup puts about 230 calories in the bowl, you can do the math yourself. Serving sizes always vary depending on how the soup gets served. Appetizers are usually less than a cup. Main course soup for supper is usually more than a cup. Snackers I’m sure have their own favorite amounts.
Here’re a breakdown for the nutrients per cup that I check for:
• Protein. This soup is actually vegan so all 10 grams per cup are plant protein. Ham hocks or bacon or cheese are common additions to split pea soup. They add more protein and you’ll end up with an animal plant protein mix.
• Fiber. Both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers are beneficial from a health perspective. All legumes are fiber rich and split pea soup has lots of fiber, about 11 grams per cup.
• Fat. For the soup to be palatable you’ll need just the right amount of salt and lots of fat. Olive oil is the source of fat and contribute 35% of the calories as per proportions used above. Using olive oil ensures that the fat profile will be predominantly unsaturated fatty acids. Adding ham hocks or bacon or cheese adds saturated fatty acids and changes the fat profile.
• Salt. Absolutely essential for a good tasting soup. As noted above, I tend to under salt. Sometime I’ll even use less than 4 grams per liter. Always keep in mind it’s safer to under salt. It’s easy to use a tiny sprinkling of finishing salt just before serving. It’s hard to desalt an over salted soup. Using the proportions of 4 teaspoons kosher flake salt for 3 liters soup, each cup will have about 410 mg sodium per cup. For nerds like me those proportions work out to 1.8 milligrams sodium per calorie. Being taste sensitive to salt, I often use less. Using 3 teaspoons works out to 320 mg per cup or 1.4 milligrams per calorie. That’s why salt to your taste is so important.