Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Extremely naughty pea soup

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

If you are, as I am, a well-brought up sort of person, you will have been given many stern rules about the making of soup. There must be a great deal of sweating, for starters. Almost every soup requires an onion base, and the onions should be gently cooked in olive oil or butter to give up their full flavour before anything else should be attempted. But sometimes I am in a hurry, yearning for something to eat right now this very minute, and I can't be fagged, and so I just put things in a pot and boil them. This is absolute soup heresy, and I can hardly believe that I allow myself to do it (what will my poor old mother think?), and I am almost ashamed to report that you can make a soup of utter deliciousness using this trangressive method.

Today, I wanted to make a quick soup for the mama of the new baby (see yesterday's post), and I thought a lovely fresh pea soup would be perfect - easy on the digestion, full of goodness and comfort. I did not have much time, so out came the pot, and boiling commenced.

This is how I did it:

Put about half a litre of water in a pot and brought it to the boil. I did not have chicken stock in the fridge, but if you do, use that, it will add another layer of heaven. Threw in two garlic cloves and a couple of sprigs of mint from the garden. Cooked at a medium boil for about three minutes. Added half a bag of tiny frozen petit pois; brought the water back to a low boil, cooked for another two minutes. Threw in one tablespoon of Marigold bouillon powder, in my view the only acceptable substitute for real chicken stock, and - this is the real secret of perfect pea soup - half a tablespoon of sugar. This sounds strange, because we think of peas as sweet, but oddly, in a soup like this, they can have a tang of bitterness. The sugar does not taste, but merely lets the full pea flavour come out in all its glory. I discovered this through trial and error, mostly error.

Then, I put the whole lot in the blender, added a good gloop of extra virgin olive oil, and, just for the hell of it, a small handful of watercress. I have been reading a great deal about the miraculous powers of watercress lately (more iron than half a cow, more vitamin C than a bush full of oranges, or some such) and I wanted to emphasise the ultimate greenness of the soup. Blended till smooth. If it is too thick, you just add a little more stock or water. I like it thick but not gloopy, if that makes any sense at all; you will find your own preferred level. Then I checked for seasoning. If you are not using Marigold, you will almost certainly need a good pinch of Maldon salt. Also, I usually throw in a pinch of dried chilli flakes, but I left them out this time on account of the fact it was going to a breast-feeding mother. Did not want to give her little chap a shock on only his second day in the world. Generally though, I find just a dash of chilli gives a charming va va voom to the finished article.

And that is it. It took seven minutes. SEVEN MINUTES. And even if I do say so myself, it was like going to a restaurant. It's a lovely summery thing, even though the sun is resolutely refusing to shine; whatever the weather, a delightful pea soup will evoke the spirit of the season.


  1. Sounds delicious - definitely a cheap and cheerful idea for food... especially if it is sunny, I would imagine.

  2. For sybaritic luxury, add prawns floating on the top (weirdly a little like babies' ears floating in the soup, but we won't dwell) and some basil torn up over. I used to make a version of this while living in Germany with a drizzle of lemony-minty creme fraiche over.

  3. yum, yum,yum. thank you!

    as i currently have guests who "enjoy" a starter course at dins, i have been racking my brain for something interesting- this fits the bill perfectly!

    (love the sugar, watercress and chili idea!)

  4. Mystery - it IS cheap and cheerful, but really does taste of utter luxury, the perfect credit crunch soup. It also comes out a delightful shade of bright green.

    Jo - Very much like the prawn and basil idea.

    Truestarr - ah, the demanding guest. I find the first course very tiring so often I give my guests amuses-bouches before they sit down. For this soup, I put it in little espresso cups and serve it with drinks. It's a good way of doing a first course without doing a first course. Also there is something about soup in espresso cups that makes everybody very happy.


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