TIPS FOR COOKING WITH PULSES
Look for clean, smooth, blemish-free seeds that are consistent in both colour and size.
Dried peas and other pulses should be well rinsed and drained just before use. They are delivered dry direct from the farmers fields to our mill, so there may be some dust residue that is easily removed with rinsing.
When boiled, good quality dried peas naturally collapse into a puree. This indicates that the soup is ready; cooking times in recipes are only approximate guidelines. Salt added to the water, either on its own or in meats, may prevent peas from forming in puree. An immersion blender is a handy way to help the process along.
Advantages of soaking are an extra rinse and a shortened cooking time. It is debatable whether it is worth soaking split peas; they can be soaked in cold water for up to 6 hours to save approximately 30 minutes in cooking time. Soaked whole yellow peas, on the other hand, will produce a more viscous puree than unsoaked. For whole yellow peas, soak in cold water for 8 to 10 hours to shorten cooking time by 1 hour or more. Over-soaking whole yellow peas can cause germination to begin, producing “off” flavours.
For whole yellow peas, baking soda may be added to the soaking water (at a rate of 2 teaspoon per kilogram of peas) to speed up the time to puree. The peas should be drained and rewashed to remove all soda before boiling. Never use baking soda when soaking split peas; it will destroy some of the vitamins and make the final puree watery.
Soft water helps the peas cook to a puree more quickly. The minerals in hard water prevent the peas from collapsing into a puree when cooked.
Once boiling point is achieved, boil gently over a low heat with a tightly covered lid to minimize evaporation. If the heat is too high, soup at the bottom of the pot will stick and scorch.
For split pea soup, adding vegetables and meat prevents the foaming that occurs when split peas are boiled alone. Whole yellow peas should be boiled gently on their own until puree is achieved, since the addition of salt or salted meat interferes with the puree process. To achieve optimal flavour, vegetables, meat and meat stock should be added no sooner than one hour before serving.
When adding other vegetables, the goal should be to enhance the pea flavour rather than mask it. The following are guidelines for optimal amounts of various vegetables.
Turnip – 1/2 cup (125 ml) per pound (0.45 kg) of peas.
Onion – one small onion (2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter) per pound of peas.
Leek – the white of one medium leek per pound of peas.
Carrots – too much carrot makes the soup too sweet; use 1/2 cup per pound (0.45 kg) of peas.
Celery -a stalk of celery per pound of peas is about right.
Salt pork and hambone work well both in whole yellow pea and in split pea soups. Beef, lamb and veal bones and cuts also work well in split pea soup. Traditionally, salted lard was also used in these soups. Bones add flavour, increase viscosity and give a smoother puree to the soup. The following are guidelines for optimal amounts.
Salt pork – 4 to 8 ounces (114 to 226 grams) per pound (0.45 kg) of peas
Salted lard – an ounce of lard per pound of peas
Hambone – 4 oz per pound of peas cut into 3 inch (8 cm) lengths
Beef, veal or lamb – 4 oz per pound of peas. Cuts such as flank and chuck can be cubed; cut bones into short lengths
Every chef has his or her approach to flavouring. Pea soup flavour is distinctive and should not be overpowered by seasonings. In general, cloves, bay leaf, nutmeg, garlic salt and celery salt may be used to flavour whole yellow pea soup. For split pea soups, suitable herbs and spices include nutmeg, mace, mint, marjoram, rosemary, bay leaf, black pepper, cloves, curry powder and allspice.
Finished pea soup may be frozen for use at a later time.