I have never been a fan of split pea soup, but this one converted me. When it was made for me, it was just pea soup, but had rice in it, and the recipe called for cauliflower or broccoli or carrots. Or rice or whatever. Since I’m always looking for ways to use hulled barley, this is the way I make it. It’s delicious, really. I mean it!
You should know that I am one of those people who always double the garlic called for in recipes. I’ve made this with 8 cloves of garlic, but most were tiny cloves. I’m not sure that 10 good sized cloves of garlic would be a very good idea in this soup. At 5, it adds heat and flavor, but the soup is actually a little delicate, and I don’t think it would be well served by more garlic.
Chop 2 onions (about 1 cup) and saute in a few (3-4) tablespoons of olive oil, in a large soup pot. Peel and smash 5-7 heads of garlic (don’t chop, smash. It really will taste better!) and toss in with the onion.
Chop some carrots, throw a couple handfuls in with the savories. Add spices — sage, salt, fresh ground red and black pepper. Add some more pepper. And maybe a little bit more than that.
When the carrots start to soften, add 6 or so cups of water and three bouillon cubes (or 6 cups of stock, or whatever equivalent works for you). When it comes to a boil, add 2 cups of split peas (most of the $.89 bag from the grocery store) and 1/2 -2/3 cups hulled barley. Reduce heat, but keep it above a simmer.
Add some more spices – bay leaves, thyme, more pepper. Pepper is really the main spice here, add more than you would think. Avoid oregano and basil, they don’t work well in this soup.
Keep the soup bubbling for about two hours, until the barley is done and the peas are mushable. Check on it every 15 minutes or so, stirring and adding water as needed (I usually end up adding another 2 or 3 cups of water over the cooking time. It’s all good though — when the water evaporates, the spices and flavors stay in the soup, so you aren’t ‘watering it down’). When you stir, help the peas smush by pressing them against the sides of the pot with your stirrer.
When it’s at a consistency you like, eat and enjoy! This also freezes really well.