Sunday, April 29, 2012

Let's Talk about Spring English Pea Soup

English Peas in a Pod (image source)
It's been kind of a crazy week, but the book I'm reading has been a great stabilizer - The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood, described in the book description as a cross between The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.  Enough to say that it takes place in Cambridge, both town and gown, and in the English countryside.  It's also really nice here in Berkeley with rain and chill giving way (for now at least) to sunshine and beautiful weather.

In looking into British recipes in the Springtime season, I found many different kinds of things, but when I saw this soup I knew I'd have to write about it.  Why?  Because it's made from English peas and I have a history with English peas.

What?  You haven't heard about The Great English Pea Rebellion?  It was quite an event and very important in history and I started it.

I've written before about my Father and his great cooking.  He loved and made great food and shared that love in a family full of foodies of all kinds.  Of course, in a week of making dinner, sometimes you're going to make something simple like a chop, a vegetable, and a starch of some sort.  If you do those simple things well, that's a great thing, but it's easy to depend on reliables that may or may not be liked by diners.  For my Father prior to The Great English Pea Rebellion his go-to vegetable was English peas - easy to prepare and vary, right?  Right.

Thing is too much of anything (even chocolate ... maybe) is just too much and as teenager I had enough of the English peas - and said so at dinner.  My Mother piped up quickly afterwards and we had a lively family discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of English peas and whether or not we wanted to eat more them.  The end result of this skirmish was that my Father was kind enough to cut back on how often we ate the English peas.  This was quickly followed by The Great Orange Sherbet Rebellion (which was never quite successful - "I buy the orange sherbet it lasts longer."  "Yeah, cuz everybody hates it!").

Having related that story, I will say that springtime English peas are a wonderful thing, especially when simply prepared and cooked very briefly.  Add butter and fresh mint and you're good to go.  This soup isn't necessarily simple, but it treats the peas nicely and sounds wonderfully comforting so here we go:

Spring English Pea Soup (image source)

Spring English Pea Soup

(from FoodNRecipe.com)

Ingredients

5 bacon strips, cut into small pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 leek, finely chopped
3 pounds unshelled English green peas (1 1/4 pounds, if shelled)
4-5 cups vegetable stock
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Brown the beef bacon in a a large pot. Add the onions, garlic and leek and cook until softened. Add the peas and sauté.
2. Add the stock, milk and thyme and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Remove the thyme; remove from the heat and purée the soup smooth in a blender.
4. Strain the soup through a fine sieve and return to the pot.
5. Stir the cream in the soup over low heat and finish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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