We are in full swing for the annual Carnival celebration which culminates in a two day explosion of colour and music as masqueraders take to the streets in sequins, feathers and glittered splendor. It is indeed something to be experienced. Even if you can't be here, you can still have a taste of Carnival if you make this soup which is sold by street vendors at most carnival fêtes.
Until now I hadn't given much thought to the fact that this is actually a healthy, high fiber, vegetarian meal. But who really has time to contemplate nutritional value when you are in a pan yard listening to the sweetest rhythm of steel drums and craving a cup of corn soup? At 4:00 am, tired and hungry after the party, you make a beeline past the guy grilling burgers, the jerk chicken , the fries, and head straight for the corn soup man. Get to the line late and you will find yourself nervously eying the ladle casting about the bottom of that deep silver pot, trying your inebriated best to figure out if you'll secure your Styrofoam cup of soup before the goodness runs out! If you are lucky and make it to the head of the line before the soup is finished, you will gratefully burn your tongue because you can't wait for it to cool off sufficiently before 'nyaming' it down.
The fact that Trinidad corn Soup is vegetarian seems fitting for a festival whose name according to one source derives from the Latin carne vale which means farewell to meat. However the deprivation associated with diet food is never on my mind when I indulge in this meatless dish. For carnivores like myself, if there is a meal that can satisfy without meat - this is it. Soup the West Indian way is a heavy and hearty. This one is thickened with split peas, chuck-full of potatoes, corn, carrots and dumplings. Trust me this fuels thousands of party goers until the wee hours - you won't run on empty after a bowl of this.
A final note, the corn used in this soup is not the American variety of sweet corn that comes in cans or the frozen food section. It is a variety that is starchy more than it is sweet. Also I recommend making this in a pressure cooker to cut down on cooking time. Please follow your manufacturer's instructions for cooking the split peas safely.
Trinidad Corn Soup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 lb potato, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, diced
1/3 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh thyme, chopped
3/4 cup yellow split peas
2 pimento pepper (optional)
8 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 scotch bonnet pepper, left whole
1/2 cup coconut milk
6 ears corn, cut into 2inch pieces
8 dumplings (or more) *omit if making it gluten free or swap out for any other root vegetable
1/4 cup culantro, chopped (substitute cilantro)
1 tsp salt
In a large soup pot heat oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the celery, thyme, chives and pimento peppers and culantro. Saute for one or two minutes .
Add the stock and the split peas to this herb mixture. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Add the coconut milk if using. Pressure cook 10-15 mins or simmer in a covered pot for about an hour until peas are soft. Use an immersion or ordinary blender and puree soup to a thick and creamy consistency and return to the pot.
Add corn and cook for about 20 mins. Add the potaotes and scotch bonnet pepper carrots and cook for 10 mins or until the potato is cooked.
WARNING! Keep an eye on that pepper. You do not want it to burst while cooking. You want to keep it whole to get the flavour of the pepper but NOT the heat. This is a seriously hot pepper so if it bursts your soup may very well be ruined unless of course you are a fire-eater.
Finally add the dumplings and cook until they float to the surface. If soup is too thick at any time, add water.
2 cups flour
1 tsp butter
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and rub the flour into mixture until it is grainy. Slowly add enough water to knead to a stff dough. Roll dough into a long rope shape. Cut into 2 inch lengths and drop into boiling soup.