Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Simple Pea and Basil Soup (Dairy Free & SCD)



Fin mostly travels anywhere with a little supply of food attached to his back in a boy sized rucksack, like a little red humped camel (or is that a myth, camels living off their hump? hmmm). With enough notice I can provide Fin with an enviable selection of treats, grain and tomato free pizza, sugar free cakes, burritos, sushi rolls - you name it. Unexpected invitations however, can throw me into a frenzy of food preparation if I haven't kept the freezer well stocked with breads and muffins, the fridge replete with low salicylate vegetables and fruits and the banana cupboard ready to give up a perfectly ripe spotted specimen.

We camped all weekend in a miracle window of sunshine during this endless wet summer and then on Monday I saw patients all day. When Joy called on Tuesday morning and said she would pick Fin up in half an hour if I liked? I flew to the kitchen cupboards and saw that I had inadvertently become Old Mother Hubbard and had only a couple of courgettes and a lonely stick of celery to conjour with (also some Greek yogurt and half a pomegranate that I quickly made into a delicious cheese cake type dessert with some ground nuts and not a little magic). No onions, no squash, no eggs, no tuna......

What to do? what to do? The freezer seemed unable to help, being stuffed full of half a lamb and an eighth of a cow. Even I am not game enough to send Fin to a friend's house brandishing a frozen shin of beef. But there in the bottom drawer I spotted the frozen peas all frosty green, and knew that soup was the answer to my predicament.

By some stroke of luck I also had a fat head of new season garlic in the bowl and a great big bunch of basil that I had intended to make into pesto. The smallest amount of chopping later and a quick whizz in the blender and Finley had a flask of bright emerald, basil and garlic scented soup. As he wafted past the kitchen door still wearing only pants and a single sandal, he sniffed the air deeply in  appreciation and came to taste the soup. More basil or lemon? Nope, it's just perfect.......

Simple Pea Soup (Feeds 4-5)

I needn't tell you that not all frozen peas are created equal - make sure you buy a good brand and they will be sweeter and more tender, or use petit pois if you like. Unless you have fresh peas in your garden that you can rush from pod to pot, buying fresh peas in a pod is a bit of a waste of time - all the sugar turns to starch and they will be bland at best. You could substitute mint for the basil here, (or even a little sage) and dress up the bowl as much as you like with yogurt, creme fraiche, lemon, a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts. It's your call.

3-4 fat cloves of garlic
2 medium sticks of celery
2 small or 1 large courgette
2 bowls of frozen peas
1 1/2 pints boiling water
pinch of sea salt
squeeze of lemon juice
handful of fresh basil leaves

olive oil / duck fat (or butter if not dairy free)

Wash and finely chop the celery and courgette. Coat the bottom of a soup pan with olive oil or a couple of tsp of duck fat (or a big slice of unsalted butter if not dairy free) and saute the vegetables very gently until transparent. Then roughly chop the garlic, removing any green shoots and add to the pan, stirring to prevent it burning, until it starts to soften - about 3-4 minutes.

When the garlic is soft, pour in the boiling water and bring back up to the boil, simmer for ten minutes. Then add your frozen peas and simmer again until they are tender and still bright green - if you let them boil too long, the soup will be dull coloured.

Throw in a few ice cubes to cool the soup down a bit and then leave it until it's not quite hot anymore - otherwise you will shorten the life of your blender like I did!

Pour everything into a blender with a pinch of salt and the basil leaves and process until velvety smooth. Then taste again and decide what it needs, more basil, lemon or salt? If it's too thick then add a little boiling water. When the flavour and consistency are just right, pour back into the pan and bring very gently back up to eating temperature again. Decant into bowls and garnish as you like.