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February 4, 2010

Split Pea and Barley Soup

I have never been a picky eater, but like most people, there are a few things I just never cared for. For most of my years the biggies were mushrooms, olives, and celery. I am not sure what changed, but at some point over the last 5 years I have grown to love mushrooms and olives.

Where does that leave celery? ehh..

Despite how it may appear, to this day I cringe at the thought of any crunchy celery bits in my food. I took a chance and bought my first head of celery last year when I started making lots of homemade soups. I found that as long as I cooked it until tender, that I loved it.. success! I felt like such a grown-up being able to cook with my greatest veggie nemesis.

My grown-up food tastes continue to surprise me sometimes. Perfect example, earlier this week I dreamt about split pea soup and brussels sprouts all day at work. I would settle for nothing less than these two things for dinner that night -- and my (kind-of) friend celery even made an appearance.

In the last month I have had two different versions of Split Pea and Barley Soup at different restaurants. I was hooked and I knew that I had to come up with my own. This soup was everything I hoped it would be. The peas break down while cooking, and then the barley steps in to give the soup some great chew. As far as I'm concerned, this legume and this grain were meant for each other.

You can make this the quicky way by tossing everything into the pressure cooker (so long as you don't mind very tender carrots), or you can simmer in separate pots on the stove. I will provide guidelines for both methods below.

Split Pea and Barley Soup
About 5-6 servings

1-1/2 cups green split peas, rinsed and picked over
1/2 cup pearled barley
8 cups good tasting vegetable broth  
1 large white onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3 ribs of celery, sliced
1-1/2 tsp thyme
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Pressure cooker method:
Spray pressure cooker with cooking spray, or if non-stick add a few tablespoons of water. Saute onion for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Add in peas, barley, broth, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Seal pressure cooker and cook under high pressure for 6 minutes, and then allow the pressure to come down naturally. Remove bay leaf, stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Depending on how hearty you like your split pea soup, you may need to add more water. It thickened up after sitting and I ended up adding 2 cups of water.

Standard stove top method:
Spray a large pot, or if non-stick add a few tablespoons of water. Saute onion for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Add in peas, broth, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Cover pot and simmer over low heat for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the peas have broken down.

About an hour in start your second pot (a medium sauce pan will do). Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and stir in barley, set temperature to medium low and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir in carrots and celery and simmer another 15-20 minutes, or until the barley and veggies are tender to your liking.

When it is time to combine both pots, drain some or all of the liquid in the pot with the barley, depending on how thick you want your soup. Remove bay leaf from the first pot, and then pour the barley/veggie mixture in. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Another option would be to keep this all in one large pot, by timing the addition of the barley and vegetables appropriately for everything to be done cooking at once (adding water as needed). Either way works!

Three more things:
1. Have I told you lately that I love my pressure cooker? Oh yes I do!

2. Other things that make me feel like a grown-up: the comment that my dad left on my last post. (By the way, thanks again for all of your nice comments!)

3. This soup is my submission to February's No Croutons Required blogging event. This month is The Copycat Round -- a challenge to recreate a soup or salad that you enjoyed at a restaurant. As I mentioned, I had split pea and barley soup at two different restaurants, but this version is most like the one that I enjoyed at California Pizza Kitchen. They call their soup Smashed Pea and Barley, fun eh?


  1. This is almost like a pea soup we eat in Finland traditionally this time of the year. Sometimes these simple things are just the best, aren't they?

  2. I have made split pea and barley soup but it was too dry - this looks much nicer - I love the idea so you have inspired me to try again - lovely comment from your dad

  3. Ugh, I can't stand celery either. I leave it out of soups all the time! However, if it is cooked (very well done mind you) in soups, then I will eat it without complaint. I even had it on the grocery list to use in soup and I didn't buy it. Some sort of subconscious thing! Your soup recipe looks and sounds great. Need to give this one a shot.

  4. I love split pea soup! Mmm! So comforting~!

  5. Sounds like a wonderful soup. I can't believe I haven't tried this combination before. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe.


  6. That looks so good! I love making homemade soup- Go you for being grown up and cooking with celery! Also, I love that tablecloth.

  7. I used to hate mushrooms too. In fact, I hated a lot of veggies before I went vegan and then everything changed. Congrats on going vegan, by the way!!

  8. It's funny how tastes change over time and things you once really disliked suddenly become favorites. But I don't think I will ever evolve to like cilantro;)
    Your soup looks really good and I love that you give pressure cooker directions!

  9. "I felt like such a grown-up being able to cook with my greatest veggie nemesis."

    lol thats how i felt when instead of begging people to let me peel their bananas for them (um hello its so fun) to being able to peel and eat a banana myself! well atleast a little bit of it..its still growing on me

    good job on that health challange of alicias

  10. Thanks for that Sarah, it does sound delicious, you have put me in the mood too now and I realise that I haven't had any soup for about 2 weeks, how strange!

    ps I love that material under your bowl. Gorgeous!


  11. My brother also used to hate mushrooms and olives. He will now eat olives but not mushrooms. Sadly, my husband will not eat split pea soup as much as I love it.

  12. Hello,

    Happy Sunday. Hope you are having a great weekend.

    Most important I wanted to tell you how much I adore your blog. Your a gem.

    I have just started a new blog called Certified Organic Recipe and I would love if you might consider offering a organic vegetarian recipe post. Thanks so much.



  13. Hi, Sarah! This is very much like something I make to, though mine is almost more like a stew than soup. I like your very brothy style soup--must make! :o)

  14. i love pea soup-my mom used to make it for me all the time--but i've never had it with barley. yours looks really good! i also hate celery, unless its sauteed and in soup or stuffing.

  15. What a great coincidence... I just picked up a handful of barley without a clear idea of what to do with it. This soup sounds perfect! Thanks for the recipe. :)

  16. I am so excited that this recipe can be cooked in the pressure cooker! Gorgeous!


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