Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chilled Curried Pea Soup


Peas have such a short season here and make such a rich and satisfying chilled soup. Instead of the usual pea soup with mint that can often be a little too sweet for me I opted out for an Indian inspired one that has a little bit of heat and a nice full flavor that enhances the pea flavor without overwhelming it. I did use a generous amount of mint as a topping, I like the added texture and the cool contrast of the mint with the curry.

Here's my thing (rant alert!)I really am baffled when chef's use garnishes on a dish that have nothing to do with the dish itself, like say for example when you order a chocolate cake and the whipped cream has a mint leaf on it. Totally makes me crazy! First off, you don't need it - if your chocolate cake looks so awful you need to add a mint leaf to it well it's already too late, besides a soft peaked dollop of freshly whipped cream makes everything look better so why bother with the mint leaf or those two or three pathetic out of season flown in from Chile raspberries? Your food costs are enough you have to increase them? If you want to gild your chocolate cake lily why not shave some chocolate over your whipped cream?

OK so I have strong feelings about this and now here I am saying you should put mint on your curried pea soup when indeed there is no mint in the soup! Here's the deal, first off I'm suggesting a small handful of mint on top as part of the dish. It does look pretty, but it is not just a garnish it's an intrinsic part of the dish. At least that's my rationalization!

Chilled Curried Pea Soup

Shell fresh peas until you have 1 1/4 or so pounds of peas (so you probably have to buy 2 1/2 pounds of peas in the pod). Keep the pods!

Place the peas in a bowl and put aside.

Put the pods in a sauce pan with 4 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Bring to a bowl, turn the heat off and let sit 10 minutes to cool then strain and reserve, discard the pods.

In a skillet melt 3 T of butter and add 3 large Shallots and 4 celery sticks both roughly chopped (about a cup of each) cover and cook until transparent but not brown, for about 10 minutes, over medium heat.

Remove the lid from the skillet and add 2 teaspoons of garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the reserved pea pod water and the peas simmer for about 5 minutes or until the peas have just cooked. Season with salt.

Pour the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth, the mixture will be fairly thick. Once pureed pour back into a big bowl and add 1 1/4 cups of whole milk yogurt, whisk until smooth and well incorporated. I also added a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice but this is optional. Season to taste.

Serve the soup with a generous dollop of yogurt, chopped mint and a grate of freshly ground pepper.

With a slice of warm bread this makes for a delicious, filling and satisfying Summer meal, but do it quick peas will be gone from the market in a few weeks.

A side note to this is that if you are making a pea risotto the pea pod water is a great "broth" to use in making the risotto.

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