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Some time ago ago I picked up a cold beer in a frosty mug on my kitchen counter and took a big gulp and immediately thought, oh man, this isn’t my beer. Except it was. Only Paul had accidentally bought a smoked beer instead of the pale ale I normally buy. My next thought, mere seconds after resolving the smokey taste in my mouth, was, hot dang! I want to make a soup with smoked beer in it! I think it may have been a limited release, or possibly my local liquor store only had a limited amount of it, but I never saw that particular beer again. I kept my eyes peeled, though, and at another liquor store in another part of town eventually found a bottle of smoked porter.

I mulled over what kind of soup I wanted to make with smoked beer in it and settled on a pea soup. I thought the beer, brewed with smoked hops, could replace that smoky flavour which normally comes from adding ham to pea soup. I scoured the city for split peas (okay, I probably checked the three grocery stores which are within a five minute walk from my apartment) and came up empty handed. All I could find was dried whole peas. That’s fine, whole dried peas just need to be soaked overnight (or have a quick hot soak) first, but, unlike split peas, they would need to be blended in order to have a soup with the same texture. But, I have no blendy things.

Then my friend Amy went out of town on a business trip and asked me to feed her cat while she was away. I was sitting in her apartment chilling with her cat one day when I remembered a conversation about hummus Amy and I had the last time I was over. It went something like, “………hummus…….immersion blender……” and I can’t remember much else. There was wine involved. So, I did what any of you would do in this situation: I snooped through her kitchen cupboards (and *only* her kitchen cupboards, not her bathroom or bedroom cupboards, because *that* would be wrong) found her hand blender, and stuffed it into my bag.

That, friends, is how this soup came to be. 

Let’s talk about the ingredients in this soup. Peas. Dried, green ones. What’s the difference between split peas and whole dried peas? Split peas have had their skins removed and they naturally split in half during the drying process. You could easily swap in split peas here and just skip the pre-soak. Dried peas are a member of the legume family (like beans, lentils, etc) and are a great source of fiber, protein, and many vitamins and minerals (more info in the footnotes of this post). Dried peas were a staple food for getting through the winter in the days of yore. And yesteryear.

Beer. I did a little research on the health benefits of drinking beer and what I found is that when consumed in moderation, beer can have a number of health benefits similar as to drinking red wine. You can read up on it here. Using a beer made with smoked hops adds a lot of flavour to the broth. The beer I used was a porter, which created a deep, rich, brown coloured broth. If you find a lighter smoked beer (I think the original one I drank was a smoked ale and was much lighter than the porter) your soup will turn out a different colour. If you can’t find smoked beer you could still use beer in the broth to pump up the flavour profile, or leave it out if you’re not keen on boozing up your soup (the alcohol will mostly cook off and you are left with flavour, not booze) then you can leave out the beer and replace it with extra broth. You’ll change the taste, though.

Some fun facts: In Sweden pea soup is traditionally had for dinner on Thursdays. This is a throwback to when the dominant religion in the country was Catholic and pea soup along with ham, mustard, and then pancakes and cream were eaten for dinner on Thursdays to help sustain workers through the fast on Fridays. I also read that Trappist monks used to drink beer to help sustain them through fasting at Lent, referring to it as ‘liquid bread’. Today is the first day of Lent, tomorrow is Thursday. Beer! Peas! Soup!

Pea Soup with Smoked Porter Recipe:

You’ll need to plan ahead a little for making this soup, especially if you’re using whole dried peas as they need to be soaked overnight, and there is a long simmering time to tenderize them. Don’t discard the soaking water, it has all kinds of great nutrients in it that would be lost otherwise. Use it in your soup!

Makes a big pot of soup. Would easily serve 6 people, maybe more.

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2 cups dried green peas soaked in 6 cups of water for at least 6 hours or more

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, diced (about 2 cups diced)

1 large carrot, diced finely (about 1 cup diced)

2-4 cloves garlic, finely diced (I used 4)

2 bay leaves

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

2 cups (500ml) smoked beer

6 cups (1.5L) vegetable broth

salt and pepper

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In a large pot heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, and saute for about 5 minutes, until they are just barely starting to brown. Add garlic and carrots, and saute about 5 minutes more, until carrots are beginning to soften. Add bay leaves, thyme, oregano, and hot pepper flakes, stir to combine and saute for 1 minute.

Pour in the beer, and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, until the beer has slightly reduced.

Add the peas and their soaking water, along with 6 cups of vegetable broth. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, for about 90 minutes, or until the peas are tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and remove the bay leaves. Blend the soup with your immersion blender, or in batches in your blender. Return to the heat and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to low, and taste the soup. Season with salt and pepper as required. You can add a little more broth or water if the soup is thicker than you want, it will thicken slightly as it cools.

Serve piping hot with some nice crusty bread or crackers. Garnish with fresh parsley, a drizzle of good olive oil, or a blob of yoghurt in the middle.

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Know what you’re eating: what’s good about this? Dried peas are low in fat, high in dietary fiber, and are a good source of protein , manganese, folate, vitamin B1, potassium, and phosphorous. The high fiber content in dried peas is thought to be helpful in lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Plus all that protein (1 cup of dried peas contains 32% of the recommended daily intake of protein) and a good selection of vitamins and minerals? Pass the peas! (source)

Do ahead: This soup will last up to 5 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge, or you can portion it off in single servings and stash it in the freezer for a couple of months.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012

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