I’m having a mangetout crisis. More accurately, I am having a NOT-mangetout crisis. I bought a large bag of what I thought were mangetouts in the greengrocer, but, when I got them home, they turned out to be something that is somewhere between a mangetout and a fully-fledged pea.
When we attempted to eat them whole, they were entirely inedible – stringy, tough and really not very nice at all. And the peas inside are so tiny that they are not worth the effort of podding.
Hating to throw away perfectly fresh veg, I browsed the web for inspiration and found a few references to a Julia Child dish for pea-pod soup from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, though I was unable to track down an actual recipe. I might start my own version of this book – something along the lines of Mastering the Art of Cooking Whatever You’ve Bought When You’re Not Wearing Your Specs.
I decided I couldn’t go wrong with leeks, onion, potato and a smidgen of nutmeg, and one of the references to the original recipe muttered something about lettuce. I am a huge fan of lettuce with a pea, and, conveniently had an enormous Cos lettuce in the fridge, so chucked in half a dozen of the outside leaves of that, along with a healthy helping of fresh mint leaves.
I was pretty sure I was going to end up with some tough fibrous bits in the soup from the pods, so I did go the extra mile and poured the soup through a fairly fine strainer once I had given it a serious thrashing with my trusty stick blender. This really does only take two minutes and there were loads of stringy bits, which would indeed have completely spoiled the finished item.
The end result was a velvety smooth, fragrant summer soup. Just the thing for a warm evening when you can’t be fagged with proper food – we’re getting there already, with temperatures already nudging well past 30 degrees during the day time. These next few weeks will definitely not be finding me slaving over a hot stove for anything longer than five minutes at a time, and I think it may actually be time for Robin to dust off the barbecue – at the moment, it is standing beneath the kitchen windowsill, apparently now requisitioned by the cats as a handy vaulting-horse to facilitate access to the windowsill for menu-checking purposes.
I used chicken stock and normal semi-skimmed dairy milk for my soup, but if you would like to keep this vegan, just use veggie stock (or water) and whichever milk replacement you favour – cashew would be good here, as it is extra creamy. This soup would also be delicious served chilled.
This recipe was originally devised to use the pea pods from fully-fledged peas, so do give it a go if you are shelling peas, as you always seem to end up with a huge pile of pods with just a tiny bowl of peas.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (or use a little more oil if you prefer)
1 large leek, washed, halved lengthways and sliced – use the green bits as well as the white
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium potato – mine weighed about 250g
500g pea pods (shelled)
150g frozen peas (or use the fresh ones from your pods, but that seems a waste in soup)
500ml vegetable or chicken stock (a cube is fine)
250ml milk or milk replacement
Some outside leaves from any kind of lettuce, or use a Gem lettuce
Fresh mint, shredded – about 2 tablespoons
A pinch of sugar
Salt & pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice
Heat the olive oil and butter (if using) in a large pan over a medium flame. Add the sliced leeks and onions, season with salt and pepper, turn down the heat and cover with a lid (seasoning with salt at this stage helps release water from the onions and leeks, preventing them from browning too much). Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and leeks are soft and translucent.
Stir in the potatoes, pea pods and peas, then add the stock and milk.
Stir in the lettuce and shredded mint leaves, together with a generous pinch of sugar and several gratings of nutmeg (or a good pinch of ground nutmeg, if that is what you have to hand). Bring briefly to the boil, turn down the heat, then simmer, covered with a lid, for around 20 minutes. Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled (mine did – see below), it will become smooth when you blend it.
Blitz with a stick blender or in a jug blender, then pour the blended soup through a strainer to get rid of any fibrous bits of pod. Return to the pan and reheat gently, seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Serve warm with crusty bread, or, if you are serving on a very hot day, allow to cool, then serve chilled.