Vegetarian Pea Soup with Harissa and Mint
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Spring is in the air, which means that cravings for a piping hot bowl of homemade soup will soon be replaced by hankerings for salad, anything grilled and an occasional mojito. Although soup days are waning, peas are just about in season…the perfect opportunity for a homemade pea soup!
For many people, pea soup is a favorite. There’s something very homey, comforting and enticing about a beautiful bowl made from your grandmother’s recipe. If you’re like me, it’s likely that your family recipe includes ham and several hours in a crock pot. So, when I dusted off some classic pea soup recipes with an eye toward a quick, healthy meat free (and, as it turns out, slightly international) version, this is what I came up with.
One of the key characteristics of a good pea soup is the smokiness from the ham. I pondered several ways to interpret that smoky flavor without using any animal ingredients. Liquid smoke? Not an option…how do they even put something that tastes and smells like smoked food in a bottle? Perhaps I’d rather not know. Fire roasted red peppers? Another no…the peppers have too distinct a taste and would likely overpower the delicate peas. Hmmm….rummaging through cupboards…chipoltes? Too hot. Toasted nuts sprinkled on top? Nope..something about nuts and peas together in a soup just doesn’t work for me. A jar of harissa spice? YES! That should work nicely!
Harissa is a wonderful blend of spices traditionally used in North African cooking. While the variety of spices in a harissa can vary a bit, a classic harissa includes red chili peppers, garlic, cumin, and coriander—lots of great smoky flavors. There are many recipes for homemade harissa on the web, or you could use a pre-made dried herb blend or harissa spice paste. For this recipe, I used a dried harissa blend. Harissa can be a little on the spicy side. For this recipe, I created a very simple harissa oil for garnishing the finished soup. This helped to ensure that it didn’t add too much heat while enhancing the soup in a subtle, smoky way. The addition of some fresh lemon juice and mint helped to lend to the somewhat international flare. Let me know what you think!
© 2012 Nancy Granada Kindred Kitchen
Vegetarian Pea Soup with Harissa and Mint
servings: 4-6 | time: about 45 minutes
For the Harissa Oil:
1/3 cup olive oil2 TBSP. dried harissa spice blend
For the Soup:
1 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (reduce to 3/4 tsp. if you are using salted bouillon)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes (preferably unsalted and organic. I typically use Rapunzel)
2 1/2 cups dried split peas, rinsed
8 cups water (use 7 if you like a slightly thicker soup)
1/3 cup fresh chopped mint
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. harissa oil (for serving)
Make the Harissa Oil:Heat a skillet over low heat. Add 2 TBSP. dried harissa spice blend and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Heat over medium low heat for 5 minutes (do not let the oil become too hot…you’re not cooking the herb, you just want to heat it enough to entice the flavors (and beautiful color) to infuse the oil. Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Set aside. (This recipe will make more than you need for the soup. Use the left over infused oil in a dressing for chickpea salad, drizzle over hummus or use for adding flavor to fish or chicken). The oil will keep in the fridge for 10 days.
Make the Soup:
1. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil
2. Add the onion, carrot and salt and saute for 5 minutes, until onions become translucent
3. Break up the bouillon cubes and add to onion mixture. Saute for 1 minute
4. Add the peas and water. Stir and simmer over medium low heat for 25 minutes
5. Taste to ensure the peas are a bit on the al dente side. Add the mint and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and remove from heat
6. Working in small batches, puree about 2/3 of the soup in blender or food processor (you could use an immersion blender, just be sure not to over blend, you want some texture to the soup)
7. Spoon into bowls and drizzle 1 teaspoon of the harissa oil over each serving