Tuesday, February 23, 2010

vegan yellow split pea soup

in the style of Atar Allecha

As a newbie to plant-based eating, I've been spending a lot of time perusing cookbooks and blogs (we'll refer to these activities as research -- has a nice ring to it!). One of the sources that I've been using lately is The Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry, which includes recipes used at the eponymous restaurants in California. In addition to being vegan, Real Food fare has a macrobiotic slant, which is a direction I'd like to explore more deeply. Since I haven't been to the restaurant, I appreciated Ms. Gentry's introduction and the numerous photographs of the restaurants and food presentation. It's also useful to find notes that indicate which recipes are particularly popular at the restaurant-- this helps narrow the field when choosing dishes to serve to company of various diet orientations!

The first recipe that I tried was the Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup, which played to the warm flavors of Indian cuisine, rather than the sweet, herbal (and usually porky) French version that I grew up with. I was pleased with the texture of the finished soup: the peas were partially-broken down, so they thickened the broth and remained a bit chewy. However, I thought the spice component could use a little more personality.

I decided to brighten the flavor of the soup with ginger and jalapeño, and quickly realized that the combination sounded like the Ethiopian dish, atar allecha (mashed yellow peas). In a nod to Ethiopian cooking, I sautéed the aromatics in niter kibbeh and added fresh jalapeño. The combination gave this mellow soup the sassy little top note that I was looking for.

Atar Allecha Soup
makes 2 1/2 quarts
  • 8 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped, amount divided in half
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 6 tablespoons niter kibbeh
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • Suggested garnishes: sliced fresh jalapeño, minced cilantro, sliced green onion
  1. Soak split peas in 3 cups of water for one hour (optional).
  2. Drain, rinse, and combine with broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  3. While the peas are soaking or cooking, heat a large, dry pan over medium-high heat. Stir fry the garlic and half of the chopped onion for two minutes.
  4. Add the niter kibbeh to the pan and sauté until onion is transparent, about six minutes. Add the turmeric, salt, and jalapeno to the onion mixture and sauté for two minutes.
  5. Pour the onion mixture into the soup. Add the remaining onion, celery, carrots, and squash to the soup and stir to combine.
  6. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the peas have begun to break down. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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