Offering classes in bread baking, cooking and sewing in Greensboro, NC

Split Pea and Red Lentil Soup


Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Most of my recipes are created based on “what-if ideas”, when I experiment with new herbs or spices…or modifications to “old standards” to improve quality and flavor by introducing new ingredients that allow me to reduce previous levels of sugar or salt.  But my greatest inspiration arises when friends or family face situations that require dietary changes. Often, I listen as they describe the many foods they have been told to avoid and the few foods they used to enjoy that must now be prepared in a more “subdued” (as in bland) manner.  My “what-if” thoughts go into hyper-drive and I find myself alternating between the pantry and the spice cabinet, imagining combinations and experimenting with amounts until I am ready for my very brave family to try my latest dish.  Out comes a pencil with a fresh eraser to scribble lists of ingredients and sequential descriptions of preparations in a small notebook that always resides on my kitchen counter…because I don’t trust my memory with exact amounts of ingredients.
Only after a new recipe has been made and “family-tried” several times, do I consider it ready to share with a friend.
Such was the case with this split pea and red lentil soup.  A dear friend needed protein, but had difficulty digesting meat.  After reading the nutrition facts on several pantry items, I discovered that split peas and lentils “pack a lot of protein-power”, and are easily digestible.  Problem is, when properly cooked, these two items can become “mushy” and have little specific flavor.  With a bit of experimentation, I found that adding chopped celery, carrots and a small bit of chopped onion, not only improved the flavor, but  the texture also began to seem more like “real food”, as well.  After addressing these two basic food characteristics, “spice cabinet exploration” was my next adventure.  Extending beyond the salt and pepper, I added not-so-common spices like cumin, nutmeg and vadouvan and a small bit of coconut palm sugar because of its low glycemic index.  Adding chopped parsley or cilantro and chopped, fresh spinach as the last step in my “soup creation”, added color and greatly enhanced the nutritional value of the soup.
The day came when I decided the soup was ready to be eaten by someone outside my house.  I divided the soup into two containers so my friend could enjoy some for dinner and freeze the remaining portion for later.  I delivered the soup to my friend, but she was not readily available, so I left the containers on the kitchen counter with a note.  Later I learned that by the time my friend saw the soup, she was so hungry that she grabbed some crackers, opened one container, and began to scoop the thick, cool soup onto her crackers for a quick, “don’t-bother-to-heat-it-up” snack.  When she called to tell me that she ate all the soup in one day…and described her discovery that the mixture was not only good for soup, but also made a wonderful dip or spread for crackers or chips, I could only laugh…and compliment her creativity!  Thus was born “Lynette’s Presto Change-o Soup or Spread”.  Enjoy!

 

Split Pea and Red Lentil Soup
(also known as Lynette’s Presto Change-o Soup or Spread)
Ingredients
¾ cup dried split green peas
¾ cup dried red lentils
4 ½ cups vegetable cooking stock
¼ of medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (or omit butter and use 2 tablespoons olive oil)
1 stalk celery, washed and dried
3 medium carrots, washed, dried and peeled
(optional) 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, washed and dried, seeds and membrane removed (I recommend the wearing of gloves when working with jalapeno peppers to avoid skin irritation)
½ to 1 cup cooking stock
½ to ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided use
¼ coarse ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon organic coconut palm sugar
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon vadouvan
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 cups water or cooking stock, as needed, to achieve desired consistency
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (obtained from the leaves of approximately 10 – 12 stems cilantro or parsley, washed and drained)
6 ounces fresh spinach, de-stemmed, washed, drained, and wrapped in kitchen towel to remove excess moisture and then coarsely chopped

Directions

1) Add the split peas and lentils to 4 ½ cups cooking stock in a large stock pot or Dutch oven.  Bring this mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer, covered, for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the cooking liquid has not evaporated.
2) While this mixture is simmering, finely chop the onion, celery, carrots and jalapeno pepper, if desired.  Melt  1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Blend in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the chopped onion to the oil/butter mixture and sauté until the onions are translucent, but not browned.  Stir the chopped celery, carrots and jalapeno pepper into the onions.  Slowly blend in ½ cup cooking stock to allow the chopped vegetables to simmer with the onions, adding the remaining ½ cup cooking stock as needed.  Add ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground cumin, dried oregano, coconut palm sugar, nutmeg, and vadouvan, stirring to blend with the vegetables.
3) Add the cooked vegetables to the split pea/lentil mixture.  Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup water or cooking stock.  Additional water or stock can be added in ¼ cup increments, as needed, to achieve desired consistency.
4) Stir in chopped cilantro or parsley and chopped, fresh spinach.  Add ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, stirring to blend.  Simmer mixture for 10 to 15 minutes.  Taste to determine the need for ¼ teaspoon additional salt (and additional 1/8  to 1/4 teaspoon black pepper if jalapeno pepper is not used). Remove covered pan from heat to allow flavors to “mature”.
Note:  The flavor of this soup improves when made at least one day in advance. It can also be prepared early in the day, allowed to rest, and then served for dinner.
Now for the magic…my friend discovered that the consistency of this soup thickens considerably as the soup cools to room temperature.  When paired with corn chip or crackers, the room-temperature soup “shows its stuff” to become a quite flavorful dip or spread…hence, Lynette’s presto change-o soup or spread!

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “Split Pea and Red Lentil Soup”

  1. Rose Hood Says:

    Beautiful writing, wonderful taste and fabulous tribute of love!