A soup for the brief homegrown pea season, now in full swing, rather than the comforting winter kind that’s as thick and yellow as a jug of custard. Once you’ve had your fill of peas popped straight from the pod, this is a good way to make use of those cosy-looking containers, as well as their sweet contents.
Prep 15 min
Cook 20 min
1.2kg peas in the pod, to get 450g shelled peas (or 450g frozen peas)
4 spring onions
2 rashers smoked streaky bacon (optional)
30g butter, or 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
750ml water (or vegetable stock if not using bacon)
1 squeeze lemon juice
1 pinch sugar (optional)
Salt and black pepper
1 pinch nutmeg (optional)
To serve (optional)
1 small bunch fresh mint, chopped
Soft goat’s cheese
1 Pod the peas (without eating too many)
Shell the peas, reserving five of the empty pods to flavour the soup. Peas are best enjoyed freshly picked, before the sugars convert to starches so, if in doubt, I’d recommend going for frozen instead. It’s well worth the happy labour if you do find them really fresh, though – plus you get to eat some of the peas as you go.
2 Prep the supporting acts
Roughly chop the spring onions, white and green parts alike, discarding only the tough tops. A couple of shallots, or a small white onion, finely chopped, will stand in for the spring onions if that’s all you have to hand. And chop the bacon, too, if using – I’d recommend it if you eat pork, because the savoury flavour is an excellent partner for the sweetness of the peas.
3 Fry the onions and bacon
Heat the butter in a large pan over a medium-low flame. (Alternatively, use oil if you want to make a vegan soup – the grassy flavour of rapeseed should work well.) Add the bacon and spring onions, and sweat gently until the onions are soft and the bacon begins to release its fat; try not to let it colour.
4 Add the peas
Add the peas and the reserved pods, if using, to the pan, stir to coat them in the fat, then pour in the water. If you aren’t using bacon, you may wish to use vegetable stock instead, because the soup could probably do with the extra boost of flavour. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the peas are really tender (about 10 minutes, depending on their size).
5 Puree the soup
Turn off the heat, fish out and discard the pods and leave the soup to cool slightly. Use a food processor or hand blender to puree the mix until smooth – if you realise belatedly that you’ve missed a pod, it’s not a disaster, but you may wish to sieve the soup after blending, to extract any particularly fibrous bits before serving.
Stir in the lemon juice, taste and season accordingly: depending on the freshness of the peas, you may well feel the need to add a pinch of sugar as well as the usual salt and pepper; if you’re serving the soup warm, a tiny pinch of nutmeg wouldn’t go amiss, either, although that’s strictly optional.
7 Adjust the consistency
If the soup’s a little thick for your liking, add a dash of water – it’s particularly important that this soup is silky if you’re planning to serve it cold. If not, reheat and spoon into bowls. Or chill it well – cold soups ought to be cold, not room temperature. (Note that this is also a great soup to take on a picnic.)
8 Finishing touches
Whatever temperature you’re serving it, this soup is even more delicious with a swirl of creme fraiche and a little chopped mint. You might also consider some finely chopped crispy bacon, crumbled goat’s cheese or feta, a pinch of chilli flakes or some flaked hot smoked salmon and chopped dill or chives – or even sorrel, if you can get hold of it.
9 Croutons optional
To make croutons to go with this soup, thinly slice half a baguette and arrange on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 200C/390F/gas 6 for about 10 minutes, until just golden. If you really want to push the boat out, top each crouton with crumbled soft goat’s cheese, and return to the oven until melted and bubbling.