In recognition of the international importance of legumes as a food group, the United Nations has declared 2016 the Year of the Pulse. Its an honorific shout out to the large family of good-for-you dried legumes that include split peas, or lentils, or dal, as they are called in India. These pulses grow prodigiously around the globe to provide protein-rich, inexpensive, nutritious, delicious fare as humble soup, as tasty fritter, as filling grain entree. And, they are very inexpensive and quick to cook.
When I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s, green split peas, usually as split pea soup, sometimes made more robust with the addition of ham hock, was a familiar dish. Here’s an Indian take, with cumin and chili flakes and without any meat.
A lively turmeric-wilted onion topping adds color and a touch of exotica to the composition. The onions, turned an energetic cyber yellow by the reputedly health-inducing turmeric, add visual appeal to the subdued hue of the cooked split peas. An added attraction for home cooks is that you can make a big batch of the soup to freeze for later. The frozen soup lasts “freshly” for 6 months or so.
Makes about 5 1/2 cups
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow or white onion
1 teaspoon powdered cumin
1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 cups green split peas
5 cups filtered water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow or white onion, cut into very thin half rounds
1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
1 baguette, for serving
1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until wilted, 2 or 3 minutes.
2. Stir in the cumin and chili flakes, then add the peas and the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, lower the heat to maintain a brisk simmer, and cook until the peas are chewable but still firm, about 17 minutes.
3. Stir in the salt and continue cooking until the peas easily mash, 8 to 10 minutes more. Turn off the heat and whisk the peas with a wire whisk to mash them without pureeing.
4. When ready to serve, heat the olive oil and turmeric together in a small pan over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion slices and cook until barely wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Reheat the soup on the stovetop or in a microwave oven until piping hot. Whisk in filtered water to the desired consistency, smooth or chunky as you like. Dish into individual bowls, top each with a tablespoon or so of the turmeric onions, and serve with the baguette on the side.