Yellow Split Pea, Ginger and Coconut soup


There are times when yellow lentils and split peas beckon from the cupboard. ‘Remember me?’ they whisper from somewhere below a top shelf heaving with herbal teas. Remember thrift?

Now is that time. In between the roast ducks, payment for postage to the other side of the world, ornaments, cocktails and frocks, there are bank statements to file.

Bank statements that remind you not just from the word scripted on top that balance is key. While we may not have relegated ourselves to full austerity, for every splurge there needs to be a scrimp.

This is where this soup comes in.

A note about  yellow split peas; these are such a delight. Tiny and nubbly, they’re soothing to fumble your thumbs through, like sifting through worn stones on a shoreline. When cooked they relax into a texture of gentle corduroy – and the colour reminds me of jolly sunbeams.

In summer months I’d usually employ them in fava; that honest Greek paste, scented with a little bay and served with capers, olive oil and tomatoes (if you’re after a recipe for that delicious dish, there’s one in a great book I know of coming out next year). They’re also terrific cooked with a ham hock and stock, stitching them a little closer to the green and yellow lentils they often get mistaken for.

But this time I’ve taken them on a jaunt further south.

In the spirit of thrift I’ve been using up other things that are in our cupboard.

Namely, I think it’s time to talk about the teas.

We have a lot of teas. Along with obscure digestifs from Eastern Europe and clothing with hidden technical merits, tea is one of those things The Hungry One likes to buy. It takes up a good whack of shelf space in the kitchen. There’s ginseng, chamomile blends and three kinds of green tea, two with dragons on the box. There’s peppermint and spearmint, ‘Night Time’ and others that are randomly named after parts of the body. There’s my beloved Earl Grey. And then there’s lemon and ginger.

While we enjoy a boozy dinner party as much as the next person, there’s a subtle ritual that’s been alive for a while. When the time of the night arrives when The Hungry One already taste tomorrow’s regret for opening ‘just one more bottle’ of Cote du Rhone, he’ll slink away from the table and set up a little buffet. From the dining table you can see up to 12 teas laid out. The kettle is boiled, there will probably be some biscuits or chocolates on a plate. It’s all there for the perusing. The evening’s not over- but maybe the hard drinking part of it is.

The problem with this is that people have started to interpret the tea buffet not as an invitation to stay and have tea, but rather a cue to depart. To them it’s now a signal that the party is well and truly in decline.  Which leaves me now with far, far too many hippy dippy tea bags on a shelf.

One would assume there’s only so much lemon ginger tea one can drink.

That is, unless you find cause to use it as stock. Cooking the split peas in lemon ginger tea give them a flavourful head start. From there it’s easy to invite in some friends; the musty complexity of cumin, the fusty brightness of turmeric. A little bit of coconut milk for richness and some chilli, cucumber, mint and yoghurt for levity. It’s not quite dhal, it’s not quite lentil stew.  What it is is a soothing one bowl meal, with a pleasing rubble of textures. I like to reserve some of the cooked peas and keep them aside while I blend the rest of the soup and tea- that way you know, right from looking at it what went into its making.

It’s a lean soup for rich times. As long as there’s tea in the cupboard, this will remain a staple on our table.

Yellow Split Pea, Ginger and Coconut Soup

Nb, you could swap the yellow split peas for lentils, though you may have to cook them with the lid on for another hour or so until they relinquish themselves to the right kind of pliable softness.  If you desperately need something for dipping on the side of a soup, some papadums or parathas wouldn’t go astray.

Serves 4


1 heavy bottom saucepan/ Dutch oven. 1 stick blender.


1tbsp  olive oil
1  onion, finely chopped
3  cloves garlic, finely chopped
1tsp  ground coriander
1 tsp  turmeric
1tsp  ground cumin
1 tsp ground chilli
300 grams yellow split peas, rinsed well
200ml  coconut milk
3-4 cups of lemon ginger tea (made with two tea bags and boiling water, left to steep for 10 minutes- nb, you could always make this by steeping hot water with three coins of fresh ginger and two strips of lemon zest).

½ cucumber, diced
1 small green chilli, diced
3 tbsp natural yogurt
Mint leaves
Salt to taste

Here’s how we roll

1) Heat oil in a large, heavy-based pan or Dutch Oven. Add onion  and cook on low heat for 2-3 mins until soft.

2) Stir through garlic and ground coriander, cumin and tumeric. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes to coat the onion and toast the spices.

3) Add the split peas and the coconut milk and add 3/4 of the tea. Bring to the boil and simmer with the lid off for an hour. Top up with more tea or hot water if it is looking dry.

4) Cook until split peas soften, about 1 hr.

5) Reserve one cup of the split peas, then blend the remainder with a stick blender. Add more lemon/ginger tea as required to get the consistency of soup that you like. Taste and season with the chilli powder and salt to taste.

6) Serve the pureed soup hot, with a few tablespoons of the split peas for additional texture. Serve with finely diced cucumber, yoghurt and mint leaves and diced green chilli if you fancy.



  1. Such a beautifully written post Tori! I love your description of the split yellow peas…. this soup looks absolutely gorgeous.

  2. Such an orignal idea to cook the peas (or any other dried legume for that matter) in tea!

  3. Frances Milne on 14 December 2012

    Gorgeous, ridiculously easy and super cheap as I always have all the ingredients onhand. Definitely a keeper, thanks in advance for some happy lunches this week.

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