Split pea soup is as old as time. It was mentioned as far back as in Aristophanes' The Birds, a play first performed in 414 BC! But I wanted to include it in my upcoming retro vegan cookbook because I've seen so many mentions of pea soup in my research on recipes from the 20th century. It may not have originated in the last century, but it was certainly popular, especially in the early half of the 20th century.
It seems to get mentioned in a lot in cookbooks that date from around 1910 to 1919, so I figured that'd be a good decade chapter to include the recipe in. I have a fancier chipotle split pea soup in Cookin' Crunk, but I wanted to stick with something simpler — more traditional. So I whipped up a very easy, very basic recipe that I'd like to think our early 20th century ancestors would have made. Here's my Creamy Split Pea Soup with Garlic Croutons.
Okay, I'm sure our ancestors didn't drizzle their soup with garlic aioli. And they probably didn't serve it with fancy croutons. But plain old pea soup can get a little boring. I'm not being a purist with this retro cookbook. After all, I'm already bastardizing the traditional recipes by making vegan versions. So I'm taking even more creative liberty with some dishes.
This soup is really yummy and it's light enough to eat on a hot summer day. The croutons add just the right bit of texture, crunch, and burst of garlic flavor. Even though the recipe is for my next book, I'm sharing it here because we all need a bowl of split pea soup!
Creamy Split Pea Soup with Garlic Croutons
For the soup:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
9 cups water
2 cups dried green split peas
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Black pepper, to taste
For the croutons:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 day-old baguette, cubed (about 2 cups)
For the soup, heat the oil in a large soup pot with a lid. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and saute for about 10 minutes or until the veggies begin to soften. Add the garlic and saute for one minute.
Add the water, peas, liquid smoke, herbs, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and partially cover. Allow to simmer for about one hour or until peas are very soft and falling apart. Transfer the soup, in batches, to a blender. Puree until very smooth.
For the croutons, preheat the oven to 350. Combine the oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Toss the cubed bread into the bowl and stir until all the cubes are coated. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until cubes have hardened and are beginning to brown.
To serve, ladle the soup into four bowls. Sprinkle croutons over each bowl. Drizzle with vegan garlic aioli if desired.