Friday, October 02, 2015

Bring the bistro to your home for the night - bistro dinner in Churchdown, Gloucester || Pea & mint soup recipe

The lady of the house must have know I was coming.....
Sometimes simple things are the best, especially when made from scratch. The pea soup starter went down so well at a Sunday night family reunion dinner party the host asked for the recipe, so here it is!
Bistro classics for simple food done well: Pea & mint soup; Longhorn rib eye steak with lemon roast new potatoes, red pesto and french beans wrapped in pancetta; Strawberry daquiri cheesecake

Pea and mint soup

A soup needs a good stock. For that you have to make your own! You can also use chicken stock for the base instead of vegetable – roast your chicken bones and add to the rest of the ingredients below.

Vegetable stock:

You can vary the stock depending on what vegetables you have in your fridge to use up. But note – it should always include onion, carrot & celery as a base. Never add starchy vegetables e.g. potatoes, parsnips as they will make the stock go cloudy and it will turn into more of a soup. Remember that all the flavours you added to your stock will go into whatever you make from it – so depending on what you make you may go easy on some ingredients e.g. garlic, coriander, lemongrass trimmings etc.  You can make a large batch by multiplying the ingredients below and freezing the stock in batches or ice cubes for whenever you want to use it in your cooking.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
Handful of carrots
2 onions
4 celery sticks
2 leeks
1 bulb fennel
2 handfuls mushrooms
3 tomatoes (optional – depending on what you are using the stock for)
3 cloves garlic (check your guests for garlic allergies)
1 bayleaf
Large sprig of thyme
Parsley stalks
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds (optional – depending on what you are using the stock for)
½ lemon cut into slices
Other leftover vegetables or veg trimmings to taste
1.5 litres of water

  1. Cut all the vegetables into roughly 1cm dice.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add all the ingredients.
  3. Cook on a medium heat without colouring for 5 minutes, allowing the vegetables to soften slightly.
  4. Add the water and bring to the boil.
  5. Once boiling turn down to simmer and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Strain through a sieve. Taste it. If there is not enough depth of flavour you can bring it back to the boil and allow it to reduce till you are satisfied with the taste.
This recent crop of pea shoots had passers by looking in from the street when I had them growing on the front window. It's a wonder more people don't grow them - it's so easy from dried peas.

Pea and mint soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
400g fresh peas + few pea pods
750ml vegetable, chicken or gammon stock
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Crème fraiche to taste: 2 – 3 tbsp +
Handful of mint
Grating of nutmeg
½ tsp ground coriander
Knob of butter
½ Lemon juiced

Top Tips: To keep your pea soup green you want to boil the peas for as short a time as possible – once they are soft they are done. The bicarbonate of soda is a magic ingredient which helps keep the green colour too.

  1. Sweat the onion in the vegetable oil till soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for another minute till garlic is soft but not coloured. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
  2. Make sure the onion is soft enough to blend in to a puree before you add the peas, as the peas don’t take long to cook.
  3. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the boiling stock , then add the peas and return to the boil.
  4. Once boiled reduce to simmer and cook for about 5 – 8 minutes till peas are soft.
  5. Add mint and allow to wilt in the soup, then blitz in a blender till smooth.
  6. Return to the pan, and then finish it with seasoning, crème fraiche, butter & lemon juice. If you think it needs it you can also add a bit of nutmeg & ground coriander.
  7. Depending on how powerful your blender is you may want to pass this, or you may not – the choice is yours!
  8. The host had grown up in Bermuda and retired to Churchdown in Gloucester to be near the other half of her family, so there were reminders of Bermuda everywhere - like this recipe for Pawpaw (Papaya) Mostespan which sounds like it has to be made! 'Top round ground' is minced beef btw.
I rather like the look of this recipe too which was hanging on the wall because the amounts are rather relaxed - if you have an abundance of citrus left from a large event this would be a good use for it!

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