Quite a few years ago I took a contract job cooking for a self-proclaimed ‘meat, potatoes and sometimes ice cream guy’ who wanted to try a vegan, raw food diet. He admitted that he didn’t love most vegetables but was interested in improving his overall health (he didn’t have cancer). I love a challenge, but this was really challenging. I only had one frustrated (and colourful) juice pulp-throwing incident (thrown by me) before I started thinking with my meat brain. What would my Dad eat? I figured out ways to tickle that umami part of the brain, using different spices and veggies.
Smoked paprika helped a lot. In general, smoked foods aren’t great for our health; they can contain toxins that come from the burning matter creating the smoke. We’re not talking about eating smoked meat here, or smoked fish, you will only be getting a small amount of the paprika, but the flavour will remind you (or your meat and potatoes buddy) of that chorizo-filled trip to Spain.
Smoked paprika is sweet peppers that have been dried out using burning oak and then ground up into a fine red powder. Only two teaspoons added to this crazy-amounts-of-vegetables soup gives it a meaty edge. The split peas also add a certain (beef-free) beefiness, satisfying even the most carnivorous palates. But it is totally meat-free, antioxidant-full, and prepared to squash those cancer cells.
Learning to eat a predominantly plant-based diet can be challenging if you grew up with meat at the center of every meal. It is often just about distracting your brain and not letting yourself feel deprived of the deep, meaningful flavours of your past. What are the spices in your favourite Italian sausage? Sprinkle them on some roast tomatoes, mushrooms or even walnuts. Add them to this burger recipe, and shape them like meatballs. It’s all about the mind games.
By the time my contract was up with this particular client, he looked, and says he felt like a million bucks. I didn’t ever make this soup for him, but he would have liked it (as long as he didn’t know what was in it…). I find I learn the most from my more anti-veggie clients. Mostly that fresh and beautiful vegan fare doesn’t work for everyone and that sometimes it needs to resemble old habits, visually, texturally and/or aromatically.
This soup keeps well in the fridge for a few days and freezes well too. I have instructed to partially purée it, but if you would prefer a smooth, easy to sip-style of soup, blend up the whole thing.
- 1½ c Split Peas (green or yellow) soaked for a couple of hours (just so they expand)
- 1 Red Onion, sliced
- 1 Leek, sliced
- 3 Carrots, sliced
- 3 Celery Ribs, sliced
- 1 Fennel bulb, sliced
- 5 Garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- 2 Kelp leaves
- 1 bay Leaf
- 1 Thyme sprig
- 2 tsp Spanish Smoked Paprika (leave out if you're nightshade-sensitive, it will still be delish, just not smokey)
- 2 tsp Turmeric (4 tsp if using fresh)
- ½ bunch of Parsley, Chopped
- 6-8 c Water or Homemade Stock
- Sea(weed) salt to taste
- Several grinds of black pepper (to improve turmeric absorption)
- In a large pot, sauté the onion, leek, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, bay leaf and thyme in the coconut oil and a splash of water until everything becomes soft and translucent.
- Add the split peas, paprika, turmeric, kombu and water/stock.
- Bring to a boil and simmer, with the lid on (to prevent evaporation) for an hour or until the peas have really softened.
- Blend up 3 cups of the soup in a blender and return to the pot. Alternatively, put an immersion/stick blender into the pot and pulse several times to break up the peas and veg and thicken the soup a little bit. Stir in some water if it thickens too much.
- Stir in the parsley and serve. Possibly over a big bowl of raw greens.
- This freezes extremely well!