Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunshine Soup

I have to tell you about this soup. I’ve tried a few variations of squash soups and the like, including this coconut curry version (also available in sweet potato), though I still prefer my lime-ginger stand-by. But then there was this soup from My New Roots, with yellow split peas and saffron, that was simply outstanding. The bright yellow color reminded me that spring is coming, even though all the ingredients are available in the winter. It was sunshine in color and in taste, and the carrot topping looks like little suns!

1 cup dried yellow split peas, soaked
a pinch of saffron (approximately 20 threads), soaked
knob of coconut oil or vegetable oil
¼ tsp. cayenne (optional; I used Korean pepper)
¼ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. paprika
5 bay leaves
pinch of sea salt
2 large leeks, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 small Hokkaido (or any winter squash/pumpkin; I used kabocha), cubed
2 carrots, chopped (+ 1 to decorate, optional)
6 cups vegetable broth
1 lemon

Pick over split peas to remove any stones or debris. Place them in a bowl and cover with water. If possible, let soak for up to 8 hours – if not, set them aside until you cook with them.

In a very small bowl or cup, place the saffron and cover with a couple tablespoons of hot water. Let steep for at least 10 minutes (set aside until you cook with it).

In a large stock pot heat the oil and add the spices and bay leaves, stirring frequently for a minute or so (watch carefully so they do not burn). Add leeks, garlic, pumpkin, and carrots. Stir to coat with spice mix. If the pot becomes dry, add a little water. Cook for 5-10 minutes until veggies begin to soften.

Drain and rinse split peas, add to the pot. Cover with stock, add saffron-water, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer.

White the soup is simmering, cut out sun shapes with the carrots (this is totally optional, but fun. It also makes the soup very appealing!). Pick out a very straight carrot. Wedge the entire length of your knife blade into the side of a carrot on a slight angle. Just beside that slice, wedge the knife blade in again at the opposite angle to meet the first cut (creating a very long triangular cut-out). Repeat all around the carrot, then slice thinly across the end of the carrot to make sun shapes. Reserve a few for garnish.

Once the peas are cooked through and soft, remove bay leaves. (Here, I felt a bit like Walter White putting the shards of a plate back together… Some of my leaves had crumbled, so I made sure I got all the pieces out. It was easier than I thought, though, because they mostly floated.) Using an immersion blender, blend on high until smooth (you can also use an upright blender). Thin with water if too thick. Add the juice of ½ lemon. Season to taste.

Add sun carrot shapes (except the few you’ll be using as garnish), simmer until softened (5 minutes). Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a couple carrot suns and a wedge of lemon juice.

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