Monday, March 21, 2011

Heston's Fresh Pea Soup

Spring has arrived! Things are new and colors are fresh. It is a time of rebirth. It is my time of the year. There is still a bit of chill in the air here in the northeastern US, so soup is always welcome. I came across this soup by the brilliant Heston Blumenthal in London. He is the chef du jour there, with his restaurant, The Fat Duck and now his recently opened restaurant, Dinner. Stylist magazine calls Dinner,"the best restaurant in London right now, maybe even the UK." Heston's recipes are part of the Waitrose Recipe Collection, and that is where I picked up this fresh looking recipe. The final garnish of shredded ham gives it some heartiness and the finishing drizzle of mint oil has us thinking of daffodils and the fresh air of springtime.
Happy Spring!

Heston's Pea and Ham Soup

32 ounces (907g) frozen peas
1/4 cup (20g) fresh mint leaves
2 ounces (50ml) grapeseed oil, or other light tasting oil
4 tablespoons (65g) unsalted butter
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
6 oz (160g) unsmoked bacon,* sliced in 1 inch pieces
3 cups (750ml) vegetable stock
Pulled or shredded ham for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
*pancetta or salt pork may be substituted for the unsmoked bacon. Do not use smoked bacon.

Spread the peas out on a baking tray lined with a layer of paper towels and allow to defrost.
Bring a small pan of water to boil and drop in the mint leaves for 15-20 seconds. Remove the mint and submerge immediately in a bowl of ice water.. Remove the mint leaves and dry with a paper towel. Put the mint and oil in a blender or small food processor to blend for 10-15 seconds. Strain the oil through a sieve and reserve for finishing the soup.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium/large pot and add the shallots, garlic, and unsmoked bacon. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat until soft, but not colored.
Add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add all but about 2/3 cup of the peas and the remaining butter and remove from the heat immediately. With a hand-held blender, liquidize the soup.

Strain through a sieve, pressing through as many solids as possible and pour the soup into a clean pot. Season to taste and gently rewarm the soup.

Blend with a hand-held blender until foamy, and then add the remaining peas.

Ladle soup into 4 bowls and garnish with shredded ham and mint leaves. Drizzle with the reserved mint oil and serve.

Serves 4.

Notes: I only put 1/2 of the soup through a sieve since this reduces the amount of soup and also I like some texture. I then added more stock than called for. This is Heston's recipe, but texture is a personal choice, plus all of the straining can be messy. The less you strain, the more additional stock you'll need. Experiment for your own personal choice and level of time involved. I also didn't strain the mint oil, but made sure it was very fine in texture. This gives more of a mint flavor.

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