Seasonal food is more than just cooking with the foods that grow in your area at a particular time of year; it’s also about cooking what’s right for the moment. A burger, some coleslaw, and a cold beer always taste better to me in August than in December, though you could argue ground beef and cabbage aren’t exactly what you should be eating in the height of our summer produce season. This soup is a good example of something that looked perfect for early May on the page (peas, scallions, and mint) but once I got it in the bowl (on a regrettably humid 80 degree Sunday) it just felt all wrong. The soup itself was delicious – subtle clean flavors floating in a vibrant green pot – it just didn’t work for the day. I’ll remake this soup before summer gets fully underway; with one foot in green spring flavors and the other in late winter silky warmth, it would be the perfect pick-me-up meal for a rainy day.
The recipe is inspired by The Arrows Cookbook, which recommends serving the soup with crème fraiche, bacon, croutons, and fresh herbs. I made this for a crowd on Sunday, and with pork and chicken already on the menu, I gave the bacon a miss, instead making a quick mint and scallion oil to drizzle on top. The oil dresses up this soup both visually and flavor wise, but is by no means necessary. For an easier preparation, serve the soup just with chopped scallions and mint, and maybe a little dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream. Serves 6-8 as an appetizer or 4, with some bread to dunk, as lunch or dinner.
For the Soup
4 cups shelled English peas (fresh or frozen)
2 ½ cups chicken stock (good quality bought or homemade)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste
Chopped scallions and mint to serve
For the Oil
½ cup olive oil
½ cup mint
Juice of half a lemon
Salt to taste
Make the Soup: Boil a large pot of salted water and set out a large bowl of ice water. When the water boils, add the peas and cook for 2 minutes and then drain and transfer to the ice water. Cool until cold and drain again. In the bowl of a blender, combine the stock and the cooked and cooled peas and puree until very smooth. Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to do this in two batches. Run the blender for a good minute to make the soup as smooth as possible. Depending on your blender and your taste, you may want to then strain the stock and pea mixture to make it smoother. Either way, pour the mixture into a medium pot, whisk in the cream, and season with salt to taste. The soup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days at this point.
To serve, warm the soup gently over medium heat, being careful not to boil as it will discolor. Serve with a drizzle of the mint and scallion oil (below) and the chopped mint and scallions.
Make the Oil: Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a blender and puree until very smooth. Strain and taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed. To achieve very clear oil, pass the oil through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. It will be a little cloudy, but still just as tasty, if passed through a regular strainer.