Split Pea Soup
Six servings
Split pea soup is open to lots of interpretations. You can leave out the bacon to make it vegetarian/vegan, or add shredded ham hock meat to the soup after you blend it. (If you choose to do so.) Garnishes could include some toasted seeds, a dab of sour cream, or some crisp bacon strewn over the top. With good bread and cheese, it makes a nice winter meal.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup (100g) diced bacon
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
2-3 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 potatoes (1-pound, 450g), peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups (300g) dried split peas
7 cups (1.75L) water, or more, if necessary
1. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the bacon, onion and carrots, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are completely wilted. Add the garlic, thyme, salt (you can start with the smaller amount and add more later), a few very generous grinds of black pepper, a bay leaf, the cubed potatoes, and the split peas.
2. Pour in the water and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a very low boil. Put a lid on the pot, but leave it askew with room for steam to escape, and cook the soup, stirring every once in a while, until the split peas and potatoes are very soft, about 45 minutes.
3. Remove from heat. Pluck out the bay leaf. Puree the soup to whatever consistency you like with a stick blender. (Or you can use a traditional blender, letting the soup cool to room temperature before blending it. Never fill a blender more than half-full with hot liquid, which can be dangerous.) I like mine partially chunky, partially smooth. Add additional water to get to the soup to the consistency that you like, and season with additional salt, if desired.

Serving and storage: The soup can be served as is, or you can scatter sliced scallions or chives, nuts or seeds, garlic croutons, crumbled bacon, and perhaps some smoked salt over the top. The soup will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days or can be frozen for several months.