I love peas, and to my mind not many fresh vegetables taste better than freshly podded peas, especially ones that have been picked straight from the veg plot only a matter of minutes previously.
Sadly though, In the northern hemisphere at least, peas during the winter, are most definitely not seasonal. However when you are nearing the end of the shopping week, and the larder is looking decidedly bare, the humble packet of frozen peas tucked away at the back of the freezer is worth remembering.
In fact, I would hazard a guess and probably wager that most people will have frozen peas in their freezer. And although often overlooked in the winter for seasonal roots, they are an outstanding vegetable all the year round. I would argue that they are probably the best frozen vegetable product, you can purchase.
Nutritionally because they are picked, lightly blanched, and frozen in around 2 hours from field to packet. They remain surprisingly comparable, to freshly shelled spring peas.
The taste although obviously clearly slightly jaded, is still superlative, and the intense and vibrant colour of freshly cooked peas, will brighten any dreary day. So whether just as an accompaniment to a meal, or a meal in themselves, as in this soup. Undoubtedly they are a fantastic standby to have at your disposal.
Also lets face it, few things are more warming than a nice hot soup on a freezing cold day.
In the below recipe, frozen peas are used as the base to a delicious thick soup, including a few other ingredients such as carrot, celery, onion and crispy pancetta lardons.
Being a carbohydrate fiend, I serve most soups with garlic and herb croutons, liberally scattered over the top. And for to my taste no soup is complete without an accompanying slice or two of warmed thick crusty well buttered bread.
When talking about soups invariably stock comes to mind. In my opinion the widely accepted belief that the key to achieving a good soup, is a good stock. Is definitely valid.
However. Since I, and probably most of the working world, don't always have the time to make sure our supplies of stocks are maintained. I often end up using the dreaded dried stock cube.
Recently however, I have arrived at the conclusion, that using a dried stock cube judiciously, sparingly, and bolstered with other fresh ingredients, actually isn't so bad as TV chefs or food snobs would have us believe, and decent results are possible. So personally feel free to subsitute fresh stock, with a weak dilute stock cube mix, and you won't be too far away, by the time the soup is served.
1 teaspoon of Vegetable Oil,
1/2 of a white onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon of finely diced carrot
1 tablespoon of finely diced celery
Frozen Peas, (around a full cup per person, as a rough guide)
1 Pint of Chicken Stock (If not using fresh,use 1/2 a stock cube, quite dilute, or it will over power)
Fresh chopped mint, or a couple of teaspoons of dried mint.
Pancetta lardons (optional)
GARLIC AND HERB CROUTONS
1 thick slice bread, shoot for at least 1 inch thick.
1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs of your choice:
Taragon, Sage, Thyme, Oregano etc.
1 teaspoon of grated garlic
1 tablespoon of Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of grated parmesan
For the Garlic and Herb Croutons
-Cube the slice of bread into roughly square chunks, and place into a large bowl. Into this bowl add the remaining ingredients, and using your hands make sure the bread is thoroughly coated.
-Heat a large frying pan, until hot. If you are using them, fry the Pancetta lardons until crispy. Then set aside for later. Do not wash the pan, we want all these flavours to infuse into the croutons too.
-Next add the croutons into the pan, and 'dry fry' until each side is crisp and lightly golden. Lastly sprinkle over the parmesan evenly, and shake them around in the pan. Then put to one side and allow to cool, uncovered.
For the Soup
-In a deep pan, heat the vegetable oil, and throw in the onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened/translucent. Essentially I use this method for making most soups, it makes a good flavour base.
-Once happy that the finely diced veg have cooked out, add the quantity of frozen peas you are using. You can add them straight from the freezer no problem.
-Make a dilute Chicken Stock with boiling water from the kettle, and pour this over the Frozen pea mix, until you cover them by about a cm or two. Alternatively use a vegetable stock if you prefer. I just like the richness of chicken stock which I use probably more than any other.
-Leave to simmer gently for 5-10 minutes. If you were using fresh peas in the spring, slash the cooking time by at least half. There is truly no worse culinary crime than overcooking fresh vegetables.
-At the end of the cooking time, turn off the heat and add the freshly chopped mint, (or dried) and either using a hand blender, or as we do use blitz in a liquidizer until you have a nice smooth soup.
-Return the soup to the pan, and heat through thoroughly again before serving.
As always seems to be the case recently, a tradition almost. I managed to take another shockingly bad photo on a camera phone. Taking such a bad photo is a skill, I like to think.
Anyway, you get a rough idea.
Being a carb fiend, I almost always have croutons as well as a side of warm crusty bread with my soup. However you could just serve this very simple soup with just cream, or nothing at all. Enjoy!