Nigel Slater’s recipes for split pea soup, and pea and mushroom cakes

Lifestyle

The yellow split peas were probably wondering if they would ever see the light of day. I am now embarrassed at how grateful I am for their presence in the larder and have been treating them like precious golden coins. I used 250g of them to make a pot of soup this week, warming them with turmeric and mustard seeds and simmering to a velvety cream with onions and tiny orange tomatoes. They must have thought it was their birthday.

All the dry, beige stuff in the larder has suddenly taken on a new significance. The chickpeas and apricots, the mulberries and mograbia and, of course, every pea, grain and dried chilli is now welcomed into my kitchen with open arms.

I finally used the frozen peas up, too. Rolled into little cakes and fried until their sides crisped, they were stuffed into burger buns as soft as duck-down pillows. We ate them with a thick, green dressing of yogurt and chopped mint that ran down our fingers.

Split pea soup with roast carrots

Serves 6

yellow split peas 250g
vegetable stock 2 litres, hot
onions 2, medium
olive or groundnut oil 3 tbsp
garlic 2
bay leaves 2
ground turmeric 2 tsp
ground coriander 2 tsp
yellow mustard seeds 2 tsp
chopped tomatoes 1 x 400g tin
mint leaves a small handful

For the roast carrots:
spring carrots 18
olive or groundnut oil 3 tbsp
thyme sprigs 8
sunflower seeds 2 tbsp

Put the peas in a large, deep saucepan, cover with 1.5 litres of stock (you can use water at a push) and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, scrape off and discard the froth that accumulates on the surface, then partially cover with a lid and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, peel the onions, then roughly chop them. Warm the oil in a large, deep pan, add the onions and let them cook over a low heat for a good 10 minutes or until they are pale gold in colour and soft enough to crush between finger and thumb. Give them a regular stir. Peel and finely slice the garlic, then stir into the onions with the whole bay leaves, ground turmeric, coriander and mustard seeds. Continue cooking for 5 minutes until fragrant, stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes, then pour in the remaining stock. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

When the peas are tender, add them, together with their liquid, to the tomato and onions, add salt and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Ladle some of the soup into a blender, taking care to fill no more than half of the jug. Process until smooth, pour into a saucepan and continue with the rest of the soup. Cover and set aside.

Roast the vegetables. Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Trim and scrub the carrots, then slice them lengthways. They will cook more quickly that way. Put them in a roasting tin, pour over the olive oil, tuck in the thyme sprigs and season generously with salt and black pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, turning once or twice until spoon soft.

A few minutes before they are ready, scatter them with the sunflower seeds, return briefly to the oven. Reheat the soup, ladle into wide bowls, add the roasted carrots and a few mint leaves and serve.

Pea and mushroom cakes

Makes 6 cakes

frozen peas 400g
butter 40g
button mushrooms 200g
tarragon 20g
egg yolks 2
soft burger buns 6
salad leaves to serve

For the sauce:
yogurt or kefir 200ml
mint, tarragon and parsley 4 tbsp, chopped

To coat and fry:
eggs 2
white breadcrumbs 6 tbsp
vegetable oil for shallow frying

Bring a pan of water to the boil, salt lightly and add the peas. Cook for 3 minutes, then drain in a colander. Tip the peas into the bowl of a food processor and add the butter, button mushrooms and tarragon. Process for a few seconds, then add the egg yolks and continue until you have a smooth, green paste.

Transfer the paste to a mixing bowl. Take out one sixth of the mixture and shape it into a thick cake about the diameter of a digestive biscuit. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or foil and continue with the rest of the mixture. Put the tray of pea cakes in the fridge and leave to chill for 30 minutes.

Put the yogurt or kefir into a bowl, stir in the chopped herbs and a little salt. Set aside, in the fridge, until you need it.

Scatter the breadcrumbs on a plate. Break the eggs into a shallow dish and beat them lightly with a fork. When the cakes have been chilling for a good half hour, remove them from the fridge, then one at a time, lower them first into the beaten egg, then into the breadcrumbs, turning and patting the crumbs into them until they are lightly coated. Warm a thin layer of oil in a shallow nonstick pan, then lower the cakes into the hot oil. Keeping the heat at no higher than a moderate level, let the cakes cook until golden, then turn and lightly brown the other side. As they are ready, lift out on to a warm baking sheet or plate.

Halve the buns and toast lightly. Spread with some of the herb sauce and add a few of the salad leaves. Lay a pea cake on top and put the top of the bun in place.