Pea soup is one of my favorites. 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 provide 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! —Nancy Granada
Make the Harissa Oil
Dried harissa spice (or a paste if you can find it)
Extra virgin olive oil
Make the Minted Pea Soup
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Small yellow onion, diced
Large carrot, diced
Vegetable bouillon cubes (salt free if you can find them)
While you could add the spice to the oil and allow it to sit for a day or two to allow the flavors to come together, I chose to infuse by heating the ingredients. You'll want to watch the pan closely to ensure the spice doesn't burn.
Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the harissa, olive oil and salt and cook until fragrant. (this should take about 7-8 minutes).
Pass the infused oil through a fine sieve or cheesecloth and set aside. this recipe will make a bit more than you need for the pea soup, so use the extra in marinades or dressings.
Make the Minted Pea Soup
Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil
Add the onion, carrot and salt and saute for 5 minutes, until onions become translucent
Break up the bouillon cubes and add to onion mixture. Saute for 1 minute
Add the peas and water. Stir and simmer over medium low heat for 25 minutes
Taste to ensure the peas are a bit on the al dente side and add more salt, if needed. Add the mint and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and remove from heat.
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)
Spoon into bowls and drizzle 1 teaspoon of the harissa oil over each serving