Saturday, June 14, 2014

English Pea Soup ~ The Taste of Early Summer

Served chilled, warm or at room temperature, this delightful soup is always welcome when the weather warms and summer gets underway. Don't confuse this with split pea soup. This is made from fresh English peas which are only available this time of the year. If you've never enjoyed it, now is the time to give it a try.  It's easy to prepare and has a fresh summer taste.

Shelling Fresh English Peas
I wrote about this soup previously and gave you the recipe from professional chefs. Since then I've modified it and think this is actually better. But you can judge for yourself. It doesn't include mint and it does include some optional cream. I think the flavor overall is more subtle and better on the palate, as I force the peas through a fine sieve to remove fiber that can make the soup feel a bit gritty otherwise.

This is a half batch of soup.
Ingredients (Makes 4 first-course bowls)
1 small onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chicken stock
3 pounds fresh peas in the pod
        (about a pound of cleaned peas)
1/3 cup heavy cream (optional)
salt and white pepper, to taste

Shuck the peas (remove the peas from the pod) and rinse. Set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the 2 tablespoons of oil and saute the onion for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the peas, and stir. Cook another 10-20 minutes, until the peas are very tender. Check them regularly. If you want to put a few of the whole peas in the bowls at serving time, reserve them now. Let the hot liquid and peas cool slightly before proceeding.

Blender Version: If you have a good quality blender, it will do the best and easiest job of making the soup. Fill the blender about halfway (or to the pre-marked full liquid line) and secure the lid. Remember the liquid will expand when blended, so give yourself extra room and do not overfill the blender container. Insuring the lid is well locked in place or using a towel and holding the lid down, set the blender to puree the mixture.  Run for 2-3 minutes or using the pre-selected puree mode which self times.

Food Processor Version:  Food processors are not typically water tight, so in this version you must begin by draining most of the hot liquid from the peas and reserving the liquid. Add the peas the food processor along with a 1/2 cup or so of the hot liquid and run on high to puree until the peas are very smooth.
Puree the peas then                   work through a fine sieve.
Regardless which device you used, then...
Place a fine screened sieve over a bowl and, one batch at a time, pour the pureed peas into the sive. Use a spoon or spatula to work the pureed peas through the sieve. Scrape down the sieve as needed until all peas have been processed. Discard the contents of the sieve.

Return the pea puree to a soup pot. If you used the food processor method, add back the reserved broth. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt and white pepper. Stir in the optional cream and warm if you prefer.

Soup may be served warm, at room temperature or chilled. If chilling the soup check for thickness and add some water/stock to thin if necessary at serving time.

Subtle pea flavor. Silky on the tongue.
Serve soup with crusty bread and good quality salted butter.

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