This Split Pea Babka is a wonderful side dish, a bit similar to a terrine or a thicker pâté. Dried peas are soaked, cooked and then blended into a smooth mass with millet, grated carrots and browned onions. Smoked paprika powder, caraway seeds and marjoram compliment the peas nicely.
It’s my very first plant-based recipe I want to eat on repeat. I serve it alongside some fish fillets with a splash of horseradish sauce; or just on top of a slice of rye bread for breakfast.
For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.
Historically, dried peas appeared on all Polish tables: from exquisite royal feasts, to even the humblest rustic benches.
As prof. Jarosław Dumanowski says in his article:
“In the pre-potato era, long before the globalization of food, dried peas were one of the basic products in Polish cuisine. For centuries they have been treated as a grain rather than a vegetable.” (source in Polish) And so peas went everywhere: into sauces, soups, breads and… desserts (sic!).
This time, we’re baking a dish inspired by a recipe from “A Very Good Method for Frying Various Confectionary…” cookbook. This newly discovered, handwritten cookbook functioned at the Radziwiłł family court in the 17th century.
Thanks to prof. Dumanowski and Rafał Jankowski, we can enjoy this book again – beautifully published by the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów.
Thanks to prof. Dumanowski and Rafał Jankowski, we can enjoy this book again – beautifully published by the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów (Warsaw, Poland). Available (in Polish only) here.
The recipe for Dried Pea Babka goes roughly like this (transcreation / creative translation to English – mine):
“Brine peas ‘i lye, until they peel off, and at which hour they do, rinseth a few times in wat’r, to washeth off the smell of lye. Then brew until the wat’r is absorbed and putteth it out. Wherein peas cool, grindeth those folk well and taketh breadcrumbs, poureth in two spoonfuls of rose wat’r, ’round three tablespoons of sugar and addeth those to the peas, blend well, addeth six yolks, a did bite of salt, young butter, and all of this grindeth togeth’r. Taketh the melting pot of butter, so it’s hot; form a loaf and gild with said butter, and once it fries on one side, turneth it around.”
This time we’re making a dairy-free version, so let’s skip the eggs and butter this time.
Do you need any special ingredients or equipment to make this Split Pea Babka?
No, all of the ingredients should be available in any major supermarket.
Equipment-wise, you’ll need a long loaf pan (roughly 12 in / 30cm) or another baking mold of your choice. You’ll also need an immersion blender. A food processor works too, but it will require more washing-up afterwards.
How to make this Pea Babka?
Soak split peas in water, overnight.
Drain and rinse the peas, move them into a cooking pot. Cover with boiling water, add in bay leaves, sugar and salt. Cook for 20 minutes.
Peel the onions, cut into quarters or eights. Brown on a dry skillet/frying pan from each side. Set aside, but don’t clean the frying pan.
Peel the carrots and grate them using the largest shredding holes. Set aside.
Using the same frying pan we used before, heat up 1/4 of oil. Add in smoked paprika powder and ground caraway seeds. Heat them up for a minute and then pour into the cooking peas.
Add in the millet, browned onions and grated carrots into the cooking pot. Combine with a spoon. Set aside for 30-45 minutes to cool a bit.
Using immersion blender, blend the contents of the pot. Alternatively, use a food processor.
Add in four minced garlic cloves and marjoram. Fold them in with a spoon.
Line a long loaf pan with parchment paper. Move the mass into the mold. Bake for 20 minutes in 390°F (200°C).
Carefully remove the babka from the oven. Spread a few spoonfuls of wholegrain mustard on top. Return to the oven for another 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Once cooled, place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours for babka to set. After that time, you can slice it and serve cold, or heat up individual portions on a frying pan or microwave.
How should you serve this Pea Babka?
You can serve this Babka cold, and treat it as a cold-cut (just don’t slice it too finely). It tastes great on a slice of rye bread with a few rounds of dill pickles on top.
Alternatively, heat up a slice or two (on a frying pan, grill, or in the microwave). Serve as a side dish – it goes well with both fish and meat courses.
In my experience, Pea Babka pairs nicely with some punchy Horseradish Sauce. You’ll find a recipe for it at the bottom of this post.
Can you make this Pea Babka another way?
Yes. You can easily make a meaty version. Add some smoked bacon cubes to the mass at the very end, just before moving the mass into a mold. I would fry that bacon for a bit before adding it in, just for some extra crunch.
You can also skip the wholegrain mustard from the top, but it does add a nice crunch. If you’re not a fan of caraway seeds, feel free to swap them for nigella or coriander seeds.
Another idea is to bake it using muffin pan, with or without muffin liners. This way babka will be easier to store and serve.
What diets is this Pea Babka suitable for?
This Old-Polish style Babka is vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free.
How long can you keep this Pea Babka in the fridge?
Once served, don’t keep it out for longer than 4 hours.
Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 5 days. I simply cover a larger piece with foil and keep smaller pieces in a container with a lid.
Can I freeze this Pea Babka?
Yes you can, although the texture will change slightly. Freeze it as soon as it is cold enough and you can easily remove it from the mold. Wrap it in cling film and label with what it is, and on what date you put it in the freezer.
If you prefer, you can freeze individual portions – just don’t slice it too thinly.
Once thawed (e.g. overnight at room temperature), Babka can be eaten cold or reheated. Just 2-3 minutes on each side on a frying pan or 2-3 minutes in a microwave should do the trick.
For Split Pea Babka
- 2 cups (500 g) dried split peas
- 4 cups (just under 1 litre) boiling water, for soaking
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 5 cups (1.2 litre) boiling water, for cooking
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 medium (12.5 oz, 360 g) onions
- 2 medium carrots (8 oz, 230 g)
- ¼ cup (3 tbsp, 60 ml) vegetable oil, e.g. canola
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika powder
- 2 tsp caraway seeds, ground
- ¾ cup (150 g) millet
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil, e.g. canola; optional addition
- 3 tsp marjoram, dried
- 4 garlic cloves
- 8 tsp wholegrain mustard
Horseradish sauce (to serve)
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 2 tbsp flour (all-purpose or gluten-free, such as corn or rice flour)
- 1 ½ cup (350 ml) vegetable stock
- 3-4 tbsp horseradish
- 3-4 tbsp grated horseradish,or a store-bought relish from a jar
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of black pepper, ground
- Pinch of nutmeg, ground
For Split Pea Babka
- [The night before] Place the peas in a large bowl and cover with four cups (just under a litre) of boiling water. Leave to soak for 8 to 12 hours (or leave it overnight)
- Use a colander to drain the peas.
- Place the peas in a large cooking pot (ideally with a heavier bottom) and add in two bay leaves. Cover with five cups (roughly 1.2 litre) of freshly boiled water.
- Add two teaspoons of salt and three tablespoons of sugar.
- Bring to boil, then reduce the heat down to a simmer and partially cover with a lid, stirring occasionally.
- [As the split peas are cooking] Peel the onions and cut them into quarters or eights. Brown them on a dry frying pan from every side. Set aside. Don’t wash the frying pan just yet.
- Peel the carrots and grate them using the larger holes. Set aside.
- [After 20 minutes of peas cooking] Add in browned onions and grated carrots to the cooking pot.
- Using the same frying pan we used for browning onions, start heating up ¼ cup of oil. Add in a tablespoon of smoked paprika powder and two teaspoons of ground caraway seeds. Heat them up for a minute, let the flavours open up. Pour that spicy oil back to the cooking pot.
- Add the millet into the cooking pot and continue cooking everything together for another 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, so that our mass won’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Take the pot off the heat and cover it with a lid fully. Set aside for 30-45 minutes.
- Now it’s time to blend the mass. If you’re using a food processor, move the pot contents into the bowl of your device. Otherwise, keep the mass in the pot and use an immersion blender.
- (Optional step) Add in four tablespoons of oil and blend until the mass becomes smooth.
- Add in three teaspoons of dried marjoram and four pressed garlic cloves. Combine with a spatula or a spoon.
- Preheat the oven to 390°F (200°C).
- Line a long loaf pan (12 in / 30cm; or another baking mold of your choice) with parchment paper. Move the mass into the mold.
- Bake the Split Pea Babka for 20 minutes, then carefully remove it from the oven. Gently cover its top part with wholegrain mustard, spreading it evenly with a spoon.
- Return babka to the oven and bake for another 25 minutes. The mustard seeds should turn golden brown and crispy.
- Leave babka to cool completely. Place it in the refrigerator to set - usually 2-3 hours is enough.
- Release babka from the mold and slice to serve. Serve cold as a pâté / terrine or on a sandwich.
- If you prefer to serve this babka warm, fry up individual slices on a touch of oil. Alternatively, place in a microwave for 2-3 minutes until warm. Serve warm with a splash of mushroom or horseradish sauce (instructions for the latter below).
For Horseradish Sauce (to serve)
- Turn the heat on medium-low. Pour in two tablespoons of oil into a saucepan, add two tablespoons of flour. Whisk them together until combined.
- Gradually pour in the vegetable stock, whisking as you go. Make sure there aren’t any lumps, but if they appear - pouring the sauce through a sieve will save the day.
- Add in three teaspoons of grated horseradish. It can be horseradish from a jar - but if you want to keep this recipe dairy-free, make sure to check the label.
- The sauce should thicken by now. Take it off the heat and have a taste.
- Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. If you feel that the sauce needs more ‘kick’, add in another spoonful of grated horseradish.
- Serve hot over the babka.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 162Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 676mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 4g
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