Heirloom Conch Peas are creamy and sublime, the perfect compliment to butternut squash in this soul warming soup for winter days!
CAROLINA CONCH PEA
The Conch Pea is one of more than 50 varieties of cowpea, or field pea identified in the Southern US. The first cowpeas were brought to this country in the 1600s by enslaved people from West Africa and quickly became a staple of the South. The Conch Pea, an ingredient in the Slow Food Ark of Taste, first appeared in the late 19th century in the St. John’s River region of north Florida, likely having arrived from the West Indies. This cream pea is similar to varieties such as "lady peas", a white pea with a pale eye. Cooked, conch peas are noted for their creamy texture and delicate flavor, making them popular among Southern cooks. They are ideal for soups and stews, adding just the right amount of flavor without overpowering other ingredients.
Rinse and pick through the conch peas, pulling out any shriveled peas. Because the peas are so small, they have a higher percentage of shriveled peas that make it through the sorting process so don't skip this step.
Add the olive oil, garlic and onion to the bottom of your soup pot or pressure cooker and sauté until soft.
Add about a tablespoon of salt and the rest of the ingredients, reserving 3-4 sage leaves per soup bowl to fry up later.
Pressure cook on high for 30 minutes or bring to a boil and then set to simmer covered for 1 hour until the peas and vegetables are very tender.
Heat olive oil in a small pan to sizzling hot. Drop in the sage leaves and fry them 30-60 seconds, remove with tongs, sprinkle with sea salt and set aside.
Blend the soup until smooth with an immersion blender or in batches in a high speed blender. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Top with fried sage leaves and drizzle with cold pressed pumpkin seed oil, high quality olive oil, full fat coconut milk or hot sauce. We LOVE this with the nutty fall flavors of the pumpkin seed oil but if you don't have some experiment with other great things to drizzle. It would also be great with a little Dukkah, or Calabrian chili flakes sprinkled on top, go wild and make this soup your own!