Yellow Split Pea Soup with Tomato, Cumin and Yogurt

With its toasted Indian seasonings, this soup fills the kitchen with lusty fragrance. It reheats well, so you can cart it to a potluck or take some to a sick friend. For a perfect autumn dinner, accompany with a crunchy green salad—maybe escarole with sliced fennel and radishes—and open a favorite beer. You can make the soup with green split peas, but I think yellow ones have a finer flavor, and the saffron-yellow soup looks especially appetizing with yogurt drizzled on top.   From Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner by Janet Fletcher (Ten Speed Press).

  • 2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 small dried red chile, broken in half
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth (low-sodium if canned)
  • 1/4 cup ghee (Indian clarified butter) or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, plus 1 clove garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 2 large plum (Roma) tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Put the split peas, bay leaves, turmeric, and chile in a large saucepan. Add the chicken broth and 1 quart cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the split peas are soft and breaking down, 30 minutes or more, depending on their age. The mixture will be brothy, but if it seems too thin, uncover and continue simmering until it thickens to a soup consistency that you like.

Heat the ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook, swirling the skillet, until the seeds darken and become fragrant, less than 1 minute; do not let them burn. Add the onion and sliced garlic. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the onion browns, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low if needed to keep the onion from burning, but it should fry, not sweat. Add the tomatoes, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring constantly, until the tomatoes soften slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the contents of the skillet into the lentils. Use a few tablespoons of water to deglaze the skillet and add that liquid to the lentils, too. Season the soup with salt. Remove the bay leaves and chile. Keep the soup hot.

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with the grated garlic and salt to taste. If necessary, whisk in a little cool water so the yogurt is thin enough to drizzle.

Divide the soup among 6 bowls. Drizzle the yogurt on top, dividing it evenly. Garnish with the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Serves 6