Sunday, 14 January 2007

Les Petit Pois eats petit pois

Forgive me for that moment of twee-ness. But it just so happens that one of the best things--boyfriend's words, not mine*--to grace our table in recent weeks counted as its main ingredient none other than a humble bag of frozen petit pois. In the interests of full disclosure (this is where my parents should stop reading), it also contained a bit of serrano ham. Called simply sopa de guisantes (pea soup with jamon and mint), this toothful, bright green potage features in the ever-reliable Moro cookbook. Carrots and bay leaves (they use fresh; I had only dry) fortify the one-note sweetness of the peas, while the ham yields an earthy saltiness and a bit of textural contrast. And the mint? Who am I to question the wisdom of this classic culinary pairing?

I've made very few alterations to the original recipe. For cost reasons, I used about 1/2 the quantity of jamon. Perhaps--and here I flout culinary wisdom with some trepidation--those who abstain from pork products could substitute a very little bit (1/2 teaspoon?) of good quality, sweet Spanish paprika. Either way, there could be no possible objection to a glass of fino, so cold that a film of condensation has formed on the outside, and a basket of chewy, just slightly sour bread.

Sopa de guisantes (Pea soup with jamon and mint)

4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (I used a bit more)
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 pound jamon serrano, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
just over 1 pound podded peas, frozen
enough stock to cover**
Special equipment: this is much easier with an immersion (stick) blender

In a large saucepan, warm olive oil over a medium heat. Add onion, cooking until it turns golden, then add carrot and bay leaves. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring a bit, then add garlic, 2/3 of the ham and 1/2 the mint. Stir, then add the peas and cover with stock. Simmer for a good five minutes, or until the peas are soft. Take off heat and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, then garnish with remaining mint and jamon.

* Said boyfriend is English and moderately laconic. He does not say such things with great frequency.
** An English brand called Marigold makes a peerless vegetarian stock, powdered and quite low in sodium. In its absence, I'd suggest the vacuum-packed chicken or vegetarian stock sold at Whole Foods.

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