In complete contrast to what the weather-man forecast - or perhaps just to spite him - Delhi has been crystal clear for the past few days, with not a hint of fog. Obviously the wrong day for pea soup, given that's what fog is typically described as, eh?
But, having lost my voice ( yes, literally and not literarily. I've been reduced to a hoarse whisper which makes anything I say sound either menacing or sexy, take your pick!), I thought a bit of throat relief in the form of a nice, hot bowl of soup wouldn't go amiss. Plus with all the eating out I had been indulging in over the past few days, I decided a veggie-supreme type dinner was called for.
In the summer, all you get in Delhi are frozen peas. Peas which just about qualify because of being green, spherical objects, but nowhere close to the essence of pea-ness - that soft scrunchiness and the sweet, sweet flavour that only young, fresh peas can have. In summer, peas are used to round out meals or make them more filling - add them liberally to provencale soups, uppittu or a paneer sabzi where the dry leatheriness they acquire in the process of being frozen gets masked by the spices. But in winter, fresh, tender young peas call for recipes in which they can shine in the spotlight. Last week at the sabzi mandi, while buying our vegetables, my son and I also sneaked and ate up dozens of young peas from the stack, freshly podded and popped in, and sweeter than any candy.
Yesterday when I held the bowl of green gems, I wanted to make a soup that wouldn't hide their sweet and innocent flavour but bring that out further. I decided to try a simple French soup, known as Potage St. Germain, apparently because it used to be served at that marketplace, according to my handy dandy soup cookbook. It's also simple to make, which automatically gives it extra points. A nice, soothing bowlful on a cold day...
3 cups fresh young peas ( this is not a recipe that works with frozen leather peas)
1 large red onion, cut into chunks
I had to innovate so I added fresh green garlic, which - I have to be honest - just faded into the pea taste and so was not required
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 litre water or stock
1/3 cup cream ( or non-sour plain yoghurt if trying to be healthy)
I love recipes which call for knobs of butter, don't you? One feels all decadent and French while it slowly melts on a low flame.
Melt said knob of butter. Add the onion - and garlic if using - and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the peas and 1/3rd of the stock if lazy and blender-ally challenged a la moi. Turn the heat up and allow the stock to come to a boil. Cook until the peas are soft but not mushy and haven't lost their bright green colour.
Cool and mush up in the blender. Remove and pour back in the saucepan. Add the rest of the stock/ water and salt and papper. Add the cream and heat until hot but before boiling point ( that curdles the cream). Serve with croutons or by itself. Try and undersalt it a bit if the peas are really sweet, so you can savour their natural taste.
If the peas aren't as sweet as you thought or if you've been careless like me and oversalted the soup, add toned milk until the salt flavour goes down, and a dash of sugar ( 1/2 tbsp).