The spicy and aromatic stock left over from cooking homemade corned beef brisket was simply too good to pour down the drain. Slightly salty from the brined and cured meat and redolent of coriander, ginger, cinnamon, mustard seed, peppercorns and cloves, among other ingredients, it was a welcome base for split pea soup. I chose yellow peas over green because of the spices; the yellow peas seem less grassy in flavor than their counterparts and thus more accepting of the alluring flavors.
The soup was simply cooked with the big three aromatics – onions, celery and carrots – and plenty of liquid, a combination of the corned beef stock and water. You probably need three times the volume of water to peas, but start with less and continue to add liquid as it becomes absorbed. I simmered the soup for about an hour and a half, but, as with the liquid, the cooking time will depend on the peas. Always buy split peas in bulk from a store with high turnover since they will be fresher and better tasting than their counterparts in plastic bags with a long shelf life. Obviously, you can cook this soup with water alone but I loved the depth of flavor that the stock imparted. An alternative is ham stock or the addition of a smoked ham hock to the liquid. I added diced corned beef at the end and garnished the soup with tiny purple kale leaves and bitter cress from my spring garden.
Yellow Split Pea Soup with Corned Beef Stock
1½ lb yellow split peas, preferably organic
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 qt corned beef stock
2-3 qts water
Salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t need this because the stock was very flavorful)
Diced corned beef (optional)
Thoroughly rinse the peas and check for small stones. In a medium-large stockpot, slowly cook the onion, carrots and celery in vegetable oil until the onion is translucent. Add the peas to the pot along with 2 quarts of liquid (1 quart of stock and 1 quart of water). Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, over low heat for about an hour and a half, or until the peas are thoroughly cooked through and soft. Check frequently and add more liquid as needed. Just before serving, add the diced meat if using.