You guys know that my babushka is my BFF.
You’ve heard she’s bossy and understand that she’s full of bizarre homeopathic Russian remedies. But did you know she’s an amazing vegan cook? Before I got here I don’t think she knew either.
From time to time she makes fun of me for my bizarre tastes (I brought a smuggled bag of chia seeds out the other day and she had to get on a ladder and tear her raised eyebrows down from the ceiling), but on the whole she’s great at adapting her favorite traditional Russian recipes to my vegan guidelines. Split pea soup (Гороховой суп) is a Russki classic typically chock full of ham and served topped with enough dill to feed a Red Army. Fortunately for me, my babushka’s variation includes only the latter (dill is the new parsley, haven’t your heard?) and is DELICIOUS.
She uses onions and garlic from her husband Igor Konstantinovich’s granddaughter’s dacha (cottage) garden in the country and chops it up so fine it blows my mind. I always tell her my soups never turn out as well because I’m too impatient in my chopping and she looks and me with her glasses on the bridge of her nose and says “well, be more patient.”
That’s the trick to this and all of my Bab’s dishes: patience. I’m learning quickly that the most delicious things in life take time and the best recipes on this blog will never be quick-fixes. She told me earlier this week that she talks to all of her plants so they feel love and don’t get lonely. She cited an incident with a certain aloe plant where she overwatered it then repented for weeks with many a monologue. The point is that she brings care and attention to her food and everything in her life. Tonight I went to her great-grandson Danya’s violin concert with her. Danya is 13 and has a few concerts a month and my babushka doesn’t miss a single one. She takes two buses to get there (about 45 minutes of transit with the waits) and sits through an hour of other kids’ pieces for about 6 minutes of Danya fame. Her patience and willingness to put in time continue to impress me and I’m sure I’ll think back on her fondly some day when I’m eating raw oats with a spoon because I’m too lazy to even microwave them.
My Babushka’s Split Pea Soup
Fresh herbs and patience make this soup. The ingredient list is short so it’s worth investing in both.
- 2 cups dried split peas (горох)
- 2 medium potatoes, diced finely (картошка)
- 2 medium carrots, grated (марков)
- 2 small onions, diced finely (лук)
- a few cloves garlic, minced (чеснок)
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped (укроп)
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh celery, chopped (петрушка)
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh sorrel, chopped (щавель)
- 2 bay leaves (лавровые листи)
- 2-3 teaspoons salt, or to taste (соль)
- black pepper to taste (черный перец)
1. Pour the dried peas in a medium pot and cover with about two times as much water. Place over a medium flame, bring to a boil, then allow to simmer 30-40 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning.
2. Add the potatoes, grated carrot, onions, garlic, and herbs. Add another 2-3 cups water and bring to a boil once again. Boil 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Soup can be served at this stage but I recommend letting it simmer another 30 minutes or so on a low flame. Once the soup cools it thickens and has the greatest texture. Add water and stir as necessary to avoid burning.
Garnish with more dill (you’re Russian, after all) and devour at least 3 bowls a day. Your babushka would want you to.