A few weeks ago, I was snowed in and decided to organize my pantry. Terribly exciting, I know. While I was sorting through half-empty containers of pasta, peanut butter, and dried cranberries, I found forgotten bags of split green peas. What does one do with split peas (other than the obligatory ‘Split Pea Soup’)? The peas were sitting on the shelf next to their fellow legume, the lentil, and I started wondering if split peas could be treated like lentils. The answer is yes, although they definitely have their own flavor. This Split Pea Curry is a delicious take on an Indian lentil curry. It’s vegan, full of vegetables, and bursting with flavor.
If you don’t have a cabinet full of Indian spices, you can still make this curry. Don’t be intimidated! It takes about 15 minutes of active cook-time. The only spices needed are cayenne pepper, cumin, and coriander. Dry roast these by putting them in a small non-stick pan and setting it on low heat. This will bring out the flavors in the spices, and make your curry even more delicious. While your spices are roasting, you’ll sauté diced onion and carrot, then add minced garlic and ginger paste.* Next, add the roasted spices, add tomatoes, add your split peas and water, and wait while it cooks. This will take about 45 minutes, but it’s very hands off. Stir it occasionally, but for the most part, just wait. A few minutes before it’s finished, add a few big handfuls of fresh spinach, and let it wilt. You could add the spinach earlier, even as early as when you add the water, but it will turn a darker, less pretty green as it cooks.
Just like Masala Spiced Lentils, you can eat this Split Pea Curry completely on it’s own. If you’d like something more filling, make rice while the curry is cooking. It works as a main dish, side dish, lunch, or a snack. This curry tastes just as good, and maybe even better, on day two, so if you’re serving it to company and want to plan ahead, make it the day before! No one has to know, and you can look like you’ve been slaving over a stove all day, even if you’ve really just been napping. Whenever and however you serve it, this steaming bowl of flavorfully spiced vegetable curry is sure to please.
Note: If you don’t usually buy ginger paste at the supermarket- it’ll probably be both in jars in the Asian food section (or at an Asian or Indian market), and tubes in the refrigerated portion of the produce aisles. Either kind will work.
Love Indian food? Try these:
Split Pea Curry
Yields 4 as main dish, 8 as side dish
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 TB olive oil OR coconut oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, shredded or sliced
- 1 TB minced garlic
- 1 TB ginger paste
- 1 15oz can fire roasted tomatoes OR 1-2 tomatoes diced
- 1 1/2 cups split green peas
- 4 cups water
- ~4 oz fresh spinach
- ~2 tsp salt (to taste)
- jasmine rice (to serve with, optional)
Dry roast cumin, coriander, and cayenne by placing spices in a small non-stick pan on low heat.
In a large saucepan or wok, heat oil on medium heat until it begins to ripple. Add diced onions and carrots, and cook about 2 minutes until they begin to soften. Add garlic and ginger and stir. Add tomatoes and cook 4-5 minutes. Add split peas and water. Increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Cover pan. Reduce heat and let simmer about 35 minutes. Add spinach and cook another 10 minutes, until most (but not all) of the water has absorbed and the peas are soft. Salt to taste.
If you're serving the curry over rice, make the rice while the peas are cooking.
Allow to curry to cool slightly before serving.
Serve alone or with rice
Recipe inspired by: Vegetarian India by Madhur Jaffrey