Every February when I was in elementary school we celebrated the Festival du Voyageur. I don't remember much about it except that we wore long embroidered sashes around our waists, made candy from pouring maple syrup onto clean (never yellow) snow and we ate delicious soupe aux pois. Most of the other kids thought the pea soup was gross, it was mushy and khaki green coloured, but I loved it! That was back in the days where I ate little bits of meat in things without too much disgust. Since then I really haven't had pea soup much at all because of the ham in it. So today I decided to make my own version, meat-free.
Voyageur Pea Soup
2 cups green split peas, rinsed
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 6-7 cups of water or vegetable stock
3 bay leaves
herbes de provence
a dash of spanish smoked paprika
Pour a little olive oil into the bottom of your soup pot. I hat giving measurements for thing like this because it should just coat the bottom of the pot. Add onions, celery, carrots, and a healthy dash of herbes de provence. Saute these for a few minutes until the onion is soft, then add the garlic. and just a tiny dash of smoked paprika. I love the smoky resonance of smoked paprika, but I don't think it should take over the taste of the soup, it should just linger in the background so you get a hint of smokiness without knowing what it is.
Add the peas, 5 1/2 cups of the stock or water, bay leaves and a grinding of black pepper. If you are using water, add some salt.
Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer and continue simmering for about 45 minutes then reduce heat a little more and cover and simmer for another 45 minutes or until the peas are cooked and mushy. During this time, give it a stir every once in a while and add more water or stock if it looks too thick. At this point taste for salt. It may need a little more, but go slowly so you don't over salt.
Remove the bay leaves. If you have an immersion blender stick it right into the soup pot and give it a whizz. Don't puree it, just help it to become partially blended into a thick, textured soup.
Now, find a red sash to tie around your waist and imagine yourself sitting in the snow eating this soup while singing French voyageur songs!