“English pea soup is one of those soups that really work well chilled,” says Jeremy Bearman, executive chef of the Michelin-starred Rouge Tomate. “It’s a combination of the sweetness of the soup and its consistency that I really like. The starch from the peas adds a creaminess to to it without having to add any actual cream. The recipe itself is pretty simple.”
“The key is finding some really great English peas,” says Bearman. How can you tell if they’re fresh? Bite into them. If they’re really sweet at the market, that means they’re ripe, because their sugar hasn’t yet turned to starch.
Chilled English Pea Soup With Fresh Mint
Serves about 8 people.
2 cups large diced Spanish or sweet onion
2 cups cleaned sugar snap peas
3 cups shelled English peas
2 cups pea stock
2 cups milk
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 fresh mint leaves
1 cup blanched spinach
Blanching the peas:
On high heat, add a gallon of water to a medium stock pot and season with salt until it has the same saltiness as the ocean. Add the peas and cook until they are soft but have not turned brown, yet remain very green. When you add the peas to the pot, you should have enough heat to maintain a boil 30 seconds after you add them. Cooking quickly will help to retain the color and vibrancy. Once the peas are soft and not gritty, remove them from the water and quickly place them in ice water. This is called shocking and it will help to maintain the color and flavor while stopping the cooking process. Strain from the ice water and reserve keeping cold. In that same water you can blanch the spinach quickly and again shock in ice water.
Making the soup base:
In a medium sauce pot, sweat the onion, garlic, and sugar snap peas on low heat for about 15 minutes. Add a couple of pinches of salt to season as it is cooking. This will help to release the moisture from the vegetables as they cook. Remember, you don’t want to get any color to the them. Add the milk and pea stock and cook for another 20 minutes at a low simmer until the vegetables are completely soft. Remove from heat and set aside but do not cool.
For the soup:
In a blender, add together the soup base, the peas, and the spinach along with the fresh mint. Blend on high heat until extremely smooth. You might need to do this in two or three batches depending on you blender size and power but it is best to only fill the blender about halfway since the liquid will be hot. Push the soup through a fine mesh strainer and quickly chill in a large bowl over ice water. The key here is getting the soup cold in a matter of minutes so that again you retain the vibrancy. When it is completely cold you can check the consistency and flavor. Most likely you will need to add some additional salt and possibly a bit more cold milk if the soup is too thick. Remember, the amount of starch in your peas will determine how thick the soup will become and no batch of peas will ever be exactly the same.
At the restaurant, we garnish with some blanched peas from which we have removed the outside skin, along with small croutons, lobster, chives, and lemon oil, but there are so many options. A dollop of fresh yogurt is nice as well. Enjoy.