Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Cold Green Pea Soup

A short time warp to 1981. Dave and I were on our first trip to England. At a small pub and restaurant in Ilminster, Somerset, an older gentleman simply pulled up a chair as we were served our dinner. Friendly sort, he was. Said he enjoyed hearing Yanks talk. Shortly, he called over to the bartender and asked him to phone his wife to come join us, which she did. That began a friendship that has withstood the years. Jimmy (a retired RAF Wing Commander) had a hundred and one WW II war stories to tell. Pamela, who had also served in the WAAFs (Women's Auxiliary Air Force), the ground transport wing of the RAF, had an equal number of stories to tell, and among other things, she was a professional chef. To this day, we still discuss food whenever we talk. Either in person, or on the phone. Sadly, Jimmy passed away a few years ago. But we have visited them and now her many, many times over those years.

But the summer of 1990, when two of our children were nearly graduated from college, we took them to England and Ireland for a few weeks and included a visit to Jimmy & Pam. The weather was fair that day, the sun shone brightly, and we enjoyed a multi-course luncheon on the back lawn. It was glorious. It was magical. It was memorable. They were so happy to meet our children. We were so proud to show them off. They were so delighted it was a pretty day. We were thrilled to enjoy Pam's cooking again. Jimmy was in rare form, warbling on about his military past (mostly he ferried planes from Canada to England) to our kids, and Pamela had outdone herself with an elegant meal. We had a Pimm's, with fresh cucumber, mint and raspberries (pronounced raws-brees) on special twigs in each drink. We had a summer pud(ding), a very seasonal treat only available in mid-summer when berries are at their peak. Our daughter vividly remembers that summer pud to this day. A summer pudding is made in a large round bowl, with layers of soft de-crusted white bread, sugar and fresh berries. It sits for 24 hours while the berries give up their juice to soak into the bread, then it's unmolded onto a platter and served with whipped cream. And, naturally, we had some good English tea. The main dish was a large, cold poached salmon elegantly festooned with layered, thinly shaved cucumber slices to resemble fish scales. What was almost comical was that our daughter didn't eat fish. So poor Pamela insisted on returning to the kitchen to cook her an egg.

It's the soup that has become one of my regulars and it may be one of the very simplest recipes I make. When the weather turns hot (it will be in the mid-90's in Southern California today), I remember this soup, which is so refreshing. As long as you have the frozen peas (only the very best will do, the smaller the better), consommé or beef stock, the half-cream (that's half and half in British-speak), and the fresh mint from the garden you're in business. Allow to chill thoroughly before serving. You can make this with fat-free half and half, although most of those products contain some sugar or sweetener, which doesn't always taste as good as a natural dairy product in a savory soup. Sometimes I add a splash of cream sherry to the mixture too.

Cold Green Pea Soup
Servings: 6
1 pound frozen peas -- defrosted, or rinsed briefly in hot water
12 ounces canned consommé or beef broth
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons fresh mint
3 tablespoons sour cream or créme fraiche

Place defrosted peas in a blender with the consomme and mint. Purée it until it is completely smooth then add the cream. Pour into a container and chill for several hours. Serve with a small dollop of sour cream, and sprinkle with additional mint or chopped chives. Taste for seasoning.

NOTES : This is very refreshing, either summer or winter, and oh, so easy. You can add a splash of cream sherry to the mixture if you like it.
Yield: 4 cups

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 134 Calories; 6g Fat (42.4% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 255mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 1/2 Fat.
To print the recipe only, click on the title above.

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