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.
61 thoughts on “Split Pea Sunshine & Saffron Soup”
Thank you so much for the work you do. Your recipes have enabled me to find tasty ways to fit more veggies into our diet and improve our health without sacrificing flavor! There are no words for how thankful I am to you for that.
I wanted to throw a suggestion your way for the next time you make this soup. I absolutely hate wasting bits and so ended up roasting the seeds with the same spices used in the soup and threw it on top. Mmmmm! The soup is (of course) perfect as is but sometimes it’s nice to hear of variations so you can switch it up. Hope you enjoy!
This soup is the bomb! Truly sunshine in a bowl. Thanks Sarah!
This looks AMAZING…I want to make it for my writers group but need to make it a day ahead. Does this soup keep well over night or is it one that has to be eaten as soon as prepared?
Did I already comment on how tasty this soup is 🙂 Well, it’s awesome. In fact, it tasted even better after I had frozen the leftovers and reheated them a couple weeks later. Thanks so much for such a practical, tasty, healthy recipe!
I like that you took a photo of all the ingredients… not only because they look so vibrant and gorgeous, but also so I can tell the scale of the size of ingredients. My squash is so much bigger than yours! Good to know that I only need to use a bit of it for this recipe.
LOVE this! I used 1/4 tsp. smoked and 1/2 tsp regular paprika. The smokiness really comes through and brings out a lovely richness. I also added a bit of toasted coconut, which went nicely with the coconut oil I used. Simply AMAZING! I really can’t get over how lovely this simple soup is.
Its raining and cold in Sydney today (its meant to be summer) and this split pea and saffron soup looks delicious, exactly what I feel like eating on the sofa watching a movie with my family 🙂
Hello, and thank you so much, I made this soup last night and it turned out even better today, I shared it with my boyfriend, coworkers, and friends, everyone was delighted 🙂 Keep up the good work, you’ve obviously found your calling and I’m very happy for you.
O Sarah this looks amazing and I can’t wait to make it….we love ‘green’ split peas & ham in the winter…I need an education tho…what is a ‘knob of coconut oil’ or ghee? Many thanks for your blog!!
The soup is taking way longer than I thought it would to cook. Please include cooking times for the overall recipes!
Your carrot flowers got pinned in my online scavenger hunt on Pinterest earning the most pins and a spot on my blog http://www.kidscreativechaos.com Post will appear 3/26/2012 Congrats!
I guess I mixed up red lentils and yellow split peas when it comes to cooking times- The soup is taking way longer than I thought it would to cook. Please include cooking times for the overall recipes!
Hey Sarah, I found this soup better before I pureed it…. and because I kept my kabocha squash unpeeled, it became a murky pale green soup… not nearly as pretty as yours! 🙁
Its beautiful colour warms me up 🙂
Wow! Noma! That’s not a restaurant, that’s THE restaurant! My husband and I have been wanting to eat there for ages. We’ll start saving our kronor! And make your recipes in the meantime…
Thanks for all the lovely feedback, friends! I am happy to know this soup is warming you up too.
To Maren, I am currently on special assignment at Noma in the Nordic Food Lab. Unfortunately you can’t eat at the NFL, but you can eat at Noma! Just make sure to book several months in advance 🙂
Love to all,
There’s nothing like a hearty soup to warm you up on a cold winter day. This looks magnificent!
Are you willing to disclose at which restaurants in Copenhagen you work? I have been to Biomio and thought the food and concept were great and would love to discover some other great places in CPH. (I am an American living in Malmö) Thanks!
I cooked the Sun Hymn yesterday night. We’re currently freeezing in Switzerland and I wanted to stay optimistic in my longing for spring.
So, about the soup: At first i was a little dissapointed: The soup just didn’t want to get smooth and silky with my immersion blender. I decided to blend it in my big blender, and it really made a huge difference! (Also in the look of my kitchen, which unintentionally got a yellow paint…)
Another thought: don’t use too much of the green parts of the leeks, it doesn’t turn out as yellow…
Furthermore: DELICIOUS with some fresh garlic bread croutons and a dollop of yogurt.
Keep posting Sarah, I’ll keep reading…
I love the golden hues of the soup. I remember being very much attuned to the sun (and lack thereof) when living in Oslo. I imagine it is similar in Copenhagen.
It’s funny, my husband (a chemist) was just talking about molybdenum the other day, so I was very curious to learn about it from nutrition’s perspective.
Of course you can cook this way – that is why I have a blog of recipes! None of them are overly difficult, so pick one that seems yummy and give it a shot. You can do it!
Hello Sally Mae – your version sounds so nice! I love me some French lentils 🙂 And yes, I did study Ayurveda.
I just stumbled across your blog from The Wellness Warrior blog and Oh my goodness I am in LOVE!! I feel cheated that I didn’t know it existed until yesterday!
Please tell me you have a recipe book or have one in the making???
I’m drooling all the way from Australia 🙂
I just made this with French Lentils and it is delicious. Also, did you study ayurveda?
I made it and I have to say it was really great! I love saffron and pea soup is one of childhood’s favorites (as I wrote above) but I would really never try to mix them together! How come it is so good?
Thank you again! I’ll make it again
Hi, I’ve just found your blog and I’m kind of… confused? That’s not the best word, probably. What I want to say is that – when I read some of your posts – two thoughts came into my mind. The first was “I want to eat like that!” and the second “I would never be able to cook like that!”. That’s why I would like to ask you to make a list, like about 5 rules that are the most important. Or maybe there is a post about it here, on your blog? I am so eager to try to cook the way you do.
Sarah, I’m such a huge fan of yours and have recently helped my best friend (who is Canadian now also, but originally from Germany) to become a fan of your blog! After the death of his parents, he has returned to Germany for a while and is sorting out the estate. I sent him the recipe for your “four corners”soup and then pointed him to the mulligatawny and he made and loved both! I currently have this soup bubbling on my stove. Thank you! Stephanie in Ottawa.
OMG! The litte flower carrots are sooo pretty!
The soup looks beautiful.
I love yellow split peas! I have a Caribbean Yellow Split and Sweet Potato Soup that I make often. I think I will substitute this one next time and see how it goes over! 🙂
Sarah! This soup looks fantastic. I’m currently studying in Russia and living with a super Soviet babushka in her mid 70’s. Today she made me a split pea soup pretty similar to this (суп гороховый/sup gorohovyj). One day when I’m on my home turf and am actually allowed in the kitchen again I’ll have to give this recipe a try. Thanks for sharing!
Considering that split pea soup is a staple in most Swedish households it’s kinda odd that I’ve NEVER made it. But I’m over joyed by the thought that your recipe will be my first. Yay!
I love what you’ve done with the carrots – so pretty! And split peas are such a great store cupboard staple – the perfect sunshine injection into these frosty February days 🙂
I adore split pea soups, and this one looks scrumptious. I also loved your description of the little yellow peas–so sunny indeed! I’ll be giving this one a try.
Beautiful. I love the idea of creating food around the weather and the season. I remember your autumn post. That was one of my favorites. This soup looks lovely.
So you are coming from Canada???? And you used to eat split pea soup from the can????? It sounds familiar to me since I live in Quebec. This kind of soup (not the vegeterian one) is a staple here and we eat it each year in sugar shacks. Love your version and I’ll definitly try it!
Glad Copenhagen got some sunshine! Totally agree that soup tastes better the next day. Love a good split pea soup!
This looks so beautiful, and delicious. I really love Carrot !
If I had to choose a favorite spice, it just might be saffron. Thank you for a beautiful recipe & sharing your inspiration. I will be making this soon.
Sarah, it works like telepathy! Once again you give a recipe I really need!
I used to love pea soup when I a kid and my mom cooked it often for me. Then I kind of forgot about it and cooked some green pea soups with mint. But just 2 days ago after years of break I bought them! I bought yellow peas to make a pea soup. And you come with this recipe! Thanks:)
I’m soaking peas right now!
My mom got me saffron from Spain but I haven’t used it yet. This will be the perfect thing to make, especially with those cute carrots!
I absolutely adore the idea of cutting the carrots in such a fun way! The soup looks phenomenal, and your photos are beautiful.
Alessia – split peas are just that, split! When peas are dried and their skins are removed, they break into two halves. You can of course find whole dried peas, but it’s more difficult.
Liz – than you for the info 🙂 I made the correction.
Janet – yes, the squash was about a pound once seeded.
All the best!
I’m so glad I found you! I loved your hemp protein bars and am now excited to try this soup. I don’t even like to cook but you’ve gotten me into it with your recipes and photography. Thank you!!
I cant tell you how excited I get when I see you have a new post! The sun is out today in Ontario and this soup fits the bill for tonight’s dinner:) I positively love soup, and haven’t seen one out there like this, thank-you for the inspiration!
This looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it!
I’m a chemist, so I can’t resist adding a little addendum to your information about good old Molybdenum (coincidently, the topic of my B.S. thesis!) Molybdenum is an element, not a mineral- there is a big difference! Also, its plays a crucial part in many of our enzymes and is found in nearly every living organism from tiny little bacteria up to humans and animals. It is the key feature in sulfite oxidase, an enzyme that takes sulfite (toxic) to sulfate (nontoxic) so that it can be eliminated from our bodies. Sulfite oxidase deficiency is nearly always deadly. Molybdenum is truly a fascinating element and deserves the press its getting in this soup!
just wondering: what’s the difference between Split peas and normal peas?
I’ve tried to find an Italian translation for it (in order to buy the ingredients for the recipe) but I can’t get my head around it..please help!!!
It looks delicious btw
I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuve soup with all my heart. I could live on these kinds of soup… So all soup ideas are welcome. Will try this asap but…. I think I’ll add a (or maybe half of) a celeriac. I love celeriac as well…..
this looks delicious! a perfect winter meal.
I have definitely found that soup’s flavor improves over time. This soup looks beautiful and I love that it is pureed for creaminess.
Yummy, please come and warm my tummy;) I´ll make this soup asap! It´s fun because I made Raw sun salutations cookies to celebrate the sun:) feels like my cells are popcorns, they are so happy for the sunshine!
Good luck tomorrow sweetness Sarah!