Friday, October 25, 2013

Autumn Soup: Yellow Split Pea, Pumpkin & Sweet Potato

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

-- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

I made soup this week, though it wasn't green but orangey-gold from the yellow split peas, pumpkin, sweet potato and saffron I added. I was inspired by a recipe I found in one of my favorite cookbooks, Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food. The book, subtitled "An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York," is as much a history of Jewish cooking--and the peripatetic journey of the Jewish people themselves--as it is a compendium of diverse recipes from Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. My own family comes from an Ashkenazi (German-Russian) background, making me more familiar with typical eastern European Jewish dishes such as borscht, blintzes and gefilte fish, so I'm particularly fascinated with Roden's section on Sephardi cooking. These include, broadly, dishes developed by Jews who lived in lands along the Mediterranean (Spain, Turkey, Morocco), as well as in the Middle East and India. The food combinations, flavors and spices are quite different than those I recall from childhood. My mother often made soups too, with lentil, split pea and barley on regular rotation for Sunday brunch (along with sides of cold roast beef, tuna salad and boiled tongue). But adding cinnamon, ginger and pumpkin to a soup? That would have struck her as very strange.

No soaking is required for dry yellow lentils. 

After making some more pumpkin puree using the steamer method (I used it previously when I made pumpkin pecan bread), I searched through Roden's book for pumpkin recipes and found a surprising number of them, with several in the savory category. A Moroccan selection caught my eye: Potakhe de Potiron, which Roden translates as "Yellow Split Pea and Pumpkin Soup." I pretty much followed her recipe, but, as usual, changed a few things. Instead of cubed pumpkin, I used puree, replaced ground ginger with fresh and added a diced sweet potato. I reduced the amount of oil (from 4 tablespoons to one), replacing sunflower with coconut and adding some lemon and orange juices. But these are small changes--and you can make your own.

Pumpkin & spice

Yellow Split Pea and Pumpkin Soup 

(Adapted from The Book of Jewish Food)

Serves 6


1 1/4 cups yellow split peas
1 large onion, chopped
2 3/4 quarts chicken stock
1 tablespoon coconut, sunflower or other vegetable oil
2 cups pumpkin puree (fresh, canned* or cubed pumpkin)
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh-grated ginger root (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 to 2 teaspoons honey**

*Use one 15-ounce can

Diced sweet potato 


Chop the onion and saute in oil until softened but not brown. Put the yellow split peas in a soup pot with the stock, and add the sauteed onion. Bring to a boil and simmer until the split peas are tender. This can take 30 minutes to an hour, so be sure and  taste-test a few. They should be soft but not mushy. 

Add pumpkin puree (or cubes), sweet potato and spices. Simmer until the sweet potato (and pumpkin if it's cubed) is falling apart. Add orange and lemon juices, and salt and pepper to taste. If you sample and decide the soup could use a bit more sweetness, add a teaspoon or two of honey. 

Soup is on!


1. Roden suggests sprinkling some finely chopped flat-leaf parsley on top. I chose to garnish the soup with a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and some toasted pumpkin seeds. It's great either way--or try both!

2. Dried chickpeas can be used in place of the yellow split peas. In that case, soak them for several hours, preferably overnight, before boiling until soft. Somehow I think canned wouldn't work as well.

3. For a smoother texture, puree the soup using a blender or food processor.

4. Some variations of this soup use meat and marrow bones. I think it might be interesting to go meatless and try a vegetarian broth for the base and vegan sour cream on top.

5. If you want more chicken flavor, try this idea to amp up the stock: Combine a leftover roast chicken carcass, including pan juices, a cup of water and two quarts of low-sodium chicken stock (I use Trader Joe's  organic variety). Add a half cup each of rough-chopped carrot, celery and onion. Boil the mixture for about an hour, then strain and continue with the soup recipe.

Imported red saffron, a gift from a friend


1 comment:

  1. I made this soup again today and changed it up a bit. I added a cup of garbanzos (you can use canned, but they're better made from dried garbarzos, soaked overnight, then boiled for about an hour until soft but still a bit frm), extra fried onions and celery, plus more chicken broth to thin the soup out, and 2 to 3 tablespoons more lemon juice to add more tang. I served it with crispy croutons. Mine were homemade from cubed rye bread, a little olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt & pepper, baked in a 350-degree oven until crisp (about 15 minutes). A little more work, but definitely worth it!