Cream of Spring Pea: Sumptuous soup for the season!

This graceful soup is quite unlike any version you have eaten; all ingredients act solely to enhance the fresh flavour of the peas. The colour is as enticing as any hue could be, far more brilliant than this photo. This soup delights the eye first.

The flavour is at once intense and light, with no meat stock or cream.
I wish I could make it for you... so here's the recipe, the next best thing.

Potage Purée Saint-Germain

(Six servings)

Ingredients

2 oz. lean bacon (2-3 slices), well chilled and cut into tiny dice

1/2 cup unsalted butter
(8 tablespoons)
4 lbs fresh tiny peas in the pod, OR 2 lbs shelled small peas OR 3 packages (10 oz. each) petite frozen peas, thawed and drained
6 cups water

1 bouquet garni (5-6 fresh parsley stems, 2 bay leaves, 2 fresh thyme sprigs tied in 1 large celery stalk)

1 teaspoon salt

6-8 fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
(Note: If you prefer, you can substitute 6 fresh chervil sprigs)
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

1. Put bacon in a heavy 3-qt. saucepan over low heat. Sauté, stirring often, until the bacon is crisp, about 5 min. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon, drain on paper towels, and reserve. Pour off all bacon fat and reserve for other cooking purposes.


2. Add 3 tablespoons of the butter and the peas to the saucepan and cook together over low heat, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the water, the bouquet garni, and the salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the peas are completely tender, about 15 minutes. (Frozen peas require much less cooking time.) Remove about 1/2 cup of the peas from the cooking liquid with a wire skimmer and reserve.

3. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Working in batches, pass the peas through a food mill or purée in a food processor. Add the cooking liquid as needed to ease the puréeing. (If you use a food processor, it will be necessary to strain the puree through a sieve after processing.)
Return the pea purée to the saucepan, adding cooking liquid as needed to achieve a good consistency. Reheat over low heat, taste and add more salt if needed.


4. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter, stirring often, until lightly browned (
noisette). Stir in the reserved peas and reheat gently.

5. Divide the buttered peas among 6 heated soup plates. Ladle in the pea soup and garnish each serving with an equal amount of the reserved bacon and the chopped mint leaves. Serve immediately, passing a pepper grinder at the table.


This recipe is from Lois Anne Rothert's "The Soups of France", a collection of fascinating soups, including Wild Mushroom and Hazlenut Soup, and another family favourite, Lyonnaise Rice and Onion Soup.

12 comments

Imogen Lamport said...

Duchesse - I would so love to come to dinner! From everything I've read on your blog and other places you sound like an incredible cook!

Julianne said...

I can't wait to make this with the fresh peas from the farmer's market. Soup is my favorite meal ever. Thanks!

Deja Pseu said...

Oh, that sounds absolutely scrumptious! I love pea soup anyway, but this sounds like the Dom Perignon of pea soup.

lagatta à montréal said...

duchesse, I love this soup, but usually wait until pea season to make it. I've also made it without bacon for vegetarians and non-pork-eaters, adjusting the spicing.

A question: where do you find frozen tiny peas? A bonus if it is at somewhere pan-Canadian such as Loblaws, but even if you tell me a brand available in Canada I can no doubt source Montréal suppliers. I've been seeking those for other recipes as well, including Claudia Roden's spring couscous: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/couscouswithspringve_81567.shtml

lagatta à montréal said...

My Claudia Roden spring couscous link doesn't seem to work; let's try this:

http://tinyurl.com/claudiaroden-couscous

Duchesse said...

Lagatta: When using frozen I buy Small Sweet Peas, Loblaw's President Choice brand.

Without the bacon, guess I'd make some croutons for crunch.

Have Claudia Ronen's cookbooks and am a big fan- thanks!

Duchesse said...

Lagatta- also wanted to say that I find frozen green peas 'the' success of the frozen veg world, as they are great in this recipe.

lagatta à montréal said...

I'll go get those. The flagship Loblaws here is very close to me, located next to a former Canadian Pacific railway station at the corner of Jean-Talon and Parc. That is the beginning of a neighbourhood called Park-Extension, just west of the railway viaduct from Petite Italie where I live. Historically it welcomed a lot of Greek people; nowadays I'd say most of the residents and shops are South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan etc) though there are still Greek shops and bakeries and many others. I bought lovely frozen broad beans (from Egypt) from a shop very close to the Loblaws.

Even a chiffonade of lettuce could provide crunch in lieu of bacon.

Claudia Roden is a treasure; there are other recipes at the bbc.co.uk/food site. Linda Grant of The Thoughtful Dresser where a lot of us met has a wonderful post on Roden. Not surprising, as Roden has done the same kind of historical and cultural work on food, cookery and eating as Grant is doing on style and clothing - both largely from the distaff side of life.

materfamilias said...

Mmmmm, this sounds delightful!

lagatta à montréal said...

Thanks, I've found the tiny "petits pois" at Loblaws.

lagatta à montréal said...

Not remotely springtime, except chez Imogen and friends of mine in Argentina and Chile, but I may well serve a variation of this at year's end holiday suppers simply because it is so hopeful and full of vitamins. Watercress could also be finely chopped and added.

The tiny frozen peas are a natural for rice dishes, either South Asian or Iberian. I made a rice with finely-chopped onion, with a cupful of these, will stir in some tiny "crevettes de Matane" - very small shrimp from the North Shore of Québec, traditionally processed in Matane, on the Gaspé - these North Atlantic shrimp are also caught elsewhere in that vicinity. My shrimp were already cooked with saffron, garlic and ginger. Yum!

Duchesse said...

I know matane shrimp well, I like to use them for pasta.

Served this soup recently and people raved about it- so it may be even more appreciated in winter. It is always such a fresh, vibrant green bowl of deliciousness. Chopping and adding watercress would alter both taste and texture.