By about this time of year, the English peas from Iacopi farm are abundant, piled high in their brown paper bags at the market, the shells bright pea green and firm to the touch; just squeeze one and it will snap open to reveal rows of perfect peas inside. This is the time when I MUST make fresh pea soup. I’ve been working on the perfect fresh pea soup for some time. After a few tries, I found one from The Washington Post that made some sense to me.
“A surprising amount of flavor can be coaxed from spent pea pods by simmering them in water.”
Why wouldn’t anybody think of that?
I made my first batch from that recipe. It called for 1 pound peas in the pod, pods scrubbed. That’s not very many peas. My Iacopi bag is 2 1/4 pounds of peas-in-the-pod = 2 cups or 12 ounces by weight, shelled.
“In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the empty pea pods, scallions, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer briskly for 20 minutes. Strain the broth, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve the broth; you should have at least 3 cups.”
So I put all my shells, etc, in a big pot… it took 16 cups of water to cover. [Revelation: I don’t have to use all the pods for the pod stock] So… I reduced the stock for about 15 minutes after removing the pods. Otherwise, I pretty much doubled the recipe. The resulting soup (eaten warm after cooking) was a little thin for my taste, but tasted good, with a nice, bright fresh pea flavor. As a result, I re-wrote the recipe for future use.
Since I’m not a pro test kitchen, I don’t make batches and batches of a dish when developing or refining a recipe. Therefore I made good notes and as we were in the mood for fresh pea soup, I would make some modifications and more notes. I adjusted quantities of each ingredient and added potatoes for thickening. I spared some peas from the blender to add interest to the finished soup.
Finally, I have what I consider to be a perfect fresh pea soup recipe.
The soup can be served warm, room temperature or chilled; I prefer warm.
FRESH PEA SOUP
Adapted from a recipe that appeared in The Washington Post, April, 2005 where it was
adapted from “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen,” by Jack Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).
About 10 cups
1 bag peas from Iacopi Farm, about 2 1/4 pounds in-the-pod = about 2 cups shelled, scrubbed
6 scallions (white and light-green parts), chopped
sprigs fresh parsley (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
10 cups water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
5 cups pod broth
1 cup potatoes, diced to about “pea size”
4 cups chopped tender green lettuce leaves, preferably Boston lettuce
creme fraiche or sour cream, for optional garnish
Finely torn mint leaves, for optional garnish
Shell the peas and reserve both peas and pods.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring about 10 cups of the empty pea pods, the scallions, salt and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer briskly for 20 minutes. Strain the broth, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve the broth; you should have about 6 cups.
Melt the butter in the empty saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, salt and the sugar. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the 5 cups broth and the potatoes, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Simmer briskly for 2 minutes, add the peas and simmer for 3 more minutes. Add the lettuce and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, remove about 3/4 cup of the peas and potatoes. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until very smooth. Add back the peas and potatoes. Serve warm or, if desired, cover and refrigerate until chilled through.
To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls. If desired, top with a dollop of creme fraiche and/or scattering of mint.