I credit my love of split pea soup to one of my childhood best friends, Crystal, and her mother, Tudi. I’m sure I had split pea soup dozens of times before I had Tudi’s, but for whatever reasons hers knocked me off my feet. I was crazy for it. From then on, Tudi would often invite me over when she made it, knowing how much I loved it.
Tudi did a lot of nice things for me and Crystal over the years. Most notably, she let us make her wedding cake. At age thirteen. At the time, it seemed perfectly reasonable. We both liked to bake, and we made a damn good Pillsbury cake. Now, I wonder what she was thinking. Talk about unconditional love.
Until recently, I’d never made a split pea soup of my own. I’d incorporated split peas into dozens of soups, but for some reason never devoted a soup to the humble (yet supremely tasty) legume. I feel like I should do some sort of penance.
The inspiration for this soup comes from the ever-talented Heidi of 101 Cookbooks. I substituted split peas for her intended green lentils simply because that’s what I had on hand. Lentils, consider yourselves on notice: next time I’m coming for you.
For the soup: Sauté half an onion (diced), a clove or two of garlic (minced), and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes in a tablespoon of butter, salting to sweat. Once onions are softened and translucent, add 3/4 cup split peas and 4 cups vegetable stock or water. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until split peas are softened.
For the curried brown butter: Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and allow to brown. Once browned, add 1/2 tablespoon garam masala and stir until fragrant (less than a minute). Remove from heat.
Once split peas are cooked, remove from heat. Add half the browned butter and a generous splash (think 1/8+ cup) of milk. Blend with an immersion blender as you like, leaving a bit chunky or until perfectly smooth. Season to taste. Serve with a drizzle of curried brown butter and a hunk of crusty bread.
Earthy, mellow, and visually alluring, this soup is the perfect transition to spring. Bright split peas and clean flavors are rounded out with a bit of buttery warm spice. The curried brown butter is delightfully aromatic and unbelievably delicious when dunked with soft bread. Just when you think you know split peas, this soup goes and one-ups you. It’s so damn good.
Serves two. Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks.