Posted by: Sue Spencer | January 12, 2008

Amplissimo Viktoria!!

For what seems like months, Sr. Helena Marie has been hard at work shelling and drying her various strains of dried peas and beans – and now it’s time to be sampling them! For quite a while I’d been curious about some jars of fat, unwrinkled, gold-colored peas accumulating on our kitchen shelves. They were labeled “Viktoria Amplissimo Soup Peas,” and yesterday I made my first foray into cooking with them.

Not knowing what to expect from Viktoria Amplissimo, I figured I’d start by doing what I do with any legume – soak the peas overnight and then cook them in unsalted water for 45 minutes or so to see what happens. In the course of watching and tasting, I reasoned, the peas would let me know how they wanted to be cooked.

They did not disappoint. After 45 minutes, the signals were clear – these peas definitely wanted to be pea soup! Already they had started to melt into a thick, delicious smelling, golden mass. So I did what I’d do with any pea soup: I cut up some onions and and added them, along with some dried herbs, then sliced six of our Red Dale potatoes and added them, and then headed out to the garden to see if we still had any carrots. Finding a couple of nice specimens, I diced them up and added them toward the end. The result was delicious, everyone agreed, and all thanks to Viktoria Amplissimo!

Later, I did a web search, which indicated that these peas come originally from the Ukraine, and are usually called “Amplissimo Viktoria.” Some seed companies market them as a good chick-pea substitute. I’m sure they do make delicious hummus, but I wouldn’t count on them in any recipe where they needed to hold their shape. On the other hand, with peas that make soup as good as this, who needs them to be anything other than what they are?

Here’s my recipe. All quantities are approximate:

POTAGE AMPLISSIMO VIKTORIA

Soak 2 cups Amplissimo Viktoria soup peas overnight. In the morning, drain them, put into a 3- or 4-quart soup pot, and cover with about 8 cups water. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and a couple of bay leaves to the pot. Set on the stove and bring to a boil, turning the heat down to a simmer after the water has boiled.

After about 45 minutes, cut 2 or 3 onions into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot, along with a tablespoon of dried parsley, a teaspoon of dried basil, and half a teaspoon of dried marjoram, oregano, and chervil. (If you have fresh herbs, so much the better – this time of year we count on our own dried ones.) Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until the onions are soft and mild-tasting.

Take about 6 medium-sized potatoes of the waxy variety. (We used Red Dales, but something like Yukon Gold would work, too.) Scrub them, and peel if the skins are bitter. Cut half of them into thick slices and half into thin slices – the thin slices will essentially dissolve, and help thicken the soup. Cook until the thick-sliced potatoes are almost tender, about 30 minutes. Adjust the thickness to your liking by adding more water if necessary, then add a couple of carrots that have been cut into small dice. When the carrots are tender, the soup is ready – but of course it always benefits from sitting a while, or overnight.

Enjoy!

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