July 11, 2012

Peas Please: Sweet Pea Summer Soup with Marjoram

Is there anything more delicious than a simple bowl of sweet pea soup?  The variations are infinite, needing only imagination and whatever the garden or cupboard will yield.  Pick a herb; parsley for freshness, basil for bite, mint for green coolness.  Choose a base: something from the allium family; liquid as simple as water or as complex as rich chicken stock.  Fresh peas are best; in a pinch or in the dead of winter, frozen nearly as good. The pleasure of leisurely shelling peas on a warm summer afternoon is almost as satisfying as sipping the results.  Served warm or chilled, sweet pea soup is what summer is all about.

Sweet Pea Summer Soup with Marjoram
serves 4-6

You don't need to plan far in advance for sweet pea soup.  With willing hands to help with shelling, the soup can be ready and on the table in less than 30 minutes.  I love using marjoram for a unique and subtle flavour that complements the fresh green sweet pea taste.

Farmer's market peas, ready for shelling

1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
⅛ lb pancetta, minced into very small pieces
1 shallot, minced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 sprigs marjoram
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups fresh shucked peas (or 4 c frozen, thawed)
Salt and white pepper (optional) to taste
¼ cup heavy cream

1.  Melt butter over low heat and add leek, pancetta and shallot.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft, about 10 minutes.  Do not brown.

2.  Add the majoram and the broth, turn heat to medium and bring to a simmer.  Add peas and simmer for 6-8 minutes.  Turn heat off and let soup cool slightly.  Remove marjoram sprigs.

3.  In a blender or food processor, puree soup in batches. 

4.  Warm soup over medium heat, adding ¼ cup heavy cream and stirring to incorporate. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Serve with crème fraiche, if desired.  Soup can also be served chilled.

Serve this flavourful soup warm or slightly chilled