Ka-pow! The sun came out. Copenhagen is mighty cold, but it’s bright and beautiful. In fact, I was so inspired by the sun yesterday, that I made this soup to reflect my gratitude for the much-needed luminosity.
But how does one capture the winter sun in a bowl? It has to include a few key elements, all of them bright and warming. Very much like my Butternut Squash Salad that became a quite literal translation of an autumn stroll, this soup began with little, round, golden spheres – sunny split peas. I added more glowing globe goodness with a Hokkaido pumpkin, and took things over the top with a sprinkling of saffron and carrots cut into fun, sun shapes. Smooth, mellow, yellow, and amusing – like the bold, golden brightness poking through the gloom.
Coming from Canada, I am all too familiar with split pea soup – it’s a staple in many households. I can remember those days when my mum was in a pinch to make supper, out came the can of Habitant! That particular style, and the traditional recipe, calls for a ham hock, but after many trials, I have nailed the veggie version. Split Pea Sunshine & Saffron Soup is a very special dish full of surprising flavour that will spread warmth from your heart to your toes.
Split Peas, Pretty Please!
Yes, split peas are a modest bunch, but don’t let their wallflower demeanor fool you – they are small but mighty!
For starters, split peas are provide a lot of fiber, the soluble kind, which means they help lower cholesterol, prevent digestive disorders, and balance blood sugar. Soluble fiber is the kind that forms a gel-like substance in our digestive tract, binding to cholesterol-containing bile, which is then excreted. Soluble fiber also increases stool bulk, making it a fabulous constipation-combatant! Mmmm…who’s hungry? 
One of the other benefits of split peas is their high amount of Molybdenum (pronounced “muh-LIB-duh-nem”). Say what? Chances are you haven’t heard much about this element, but it is in fact essential for optimal health and longevity. Although required in very small amounts, Molybdenum supports bone growth and strengthening of the teeth. A low intake is associated with mouth and gum disorders, and may also cause impotence in men.  Those who eat a diet high in refined and processed foods are at risk for molybdenum deficiency.
Don’t fret! Cover your molybdenum bases with Split Pea Sunshine & Saffron Soup. Just one cup of split peas provides 196% of your recommended daily intake; so gobble up for heaven’s sake!
Split peas are also high in protein, complex carbohydrates, folic acid, and virtually fat free. Put that in your bowl and eat it!
Split Pea Sunshine & Saffron Soup
1 cup dried yellow split peas, soaked
a pinch of saffron (approx. 20 threads), soaked
knob of coconut oil or ghee
¼ tsp. cayenne (optional)
¼ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. paprika
5 bay leaves
pinch of sea salt
2 large leeks, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 small Hokkaido (or any winter squash/pumpkin), cubed
4 carrots (set aside two), chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1. Pick over split peas to remove any stones or debris. Place them in a bowl and cover with water. If possible, let soak for up to 8 hours – if not, set them aside until you cook with them.
2. In a very small bowl or cup, place a pinch of saffron (approx. 20 threads) and cover with a couple tablespoons of hot water. Let steep for at least 10 minutes (set aside until you cook with it).
3. In a large stock pot heat the oil and add the spices and bay leaves, stirring frequently for a minute or so (watch carefully so they do not burn). Add leeks, garlic, pumpkin, and carrots. Stir to coat with spice mix. If the pot becomes dry, add a little water. Cook for 5-10 minutes until veggies begin to soften.
4. Drain and rinse split peas, add to the pot. Cover with stock, add saffron-water, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer.
*5. White the soup is simmering, cut out sun shapes with the carrots (this is totally optional, but fun. It also makes the soup very appealing for kids!). Pick out two very straight carrots. Wedge the entire length of your knife blade into the side of a carrot on a slight angle. Just beside that slice, wedge the knife blade in again at the opposite angle to meet the first cut (creating a very long triangular cut-out). Repeat all around the carrot, then slice thinly across the end of the carrot to make sun shapes. You will be able to get enough for the whole soup out of two carrots. Reserve a few for garnish. See photo for clarification.*
6. Once the peas are cooked through and soft, remove bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, blend on high until smooth (you can also use an upright blender). Thin with water if too thick. Add the juice of ½ lemon. Season to taste.
7. Add sun carrot shapes, simmer until softened (5 minutes). Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a couple carrot suns and a wedge of lemon juice.
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who mentioned how many of my recipes taste better the day after. As someone with a healthy appetite, and who lives with someone of equal vigor, I don’t always get to test this theory out. BUT! Today’s lunch was leftover soup, and yowza – I’d definitely put this dish into the ‘make ahead’ category. Sometimes flavours and spices need some time to hang out together before they bond. In the case of saffron, it’s especially true.
Consider cooking up this soup a day before eating, or make sure there are leftovers. And to those of you who haven’t seen sun in a while, make a double batch of this and keep it in case of emergency!
Sources:  whfoods.com
 Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. New York, NY: Penguin, 2006.