I felt faintly ridiculous this morning as my train pulled into Stevenage station and jolted me awake. It was snowing. Heavily.
As others trampled through the fluffy white stuff in their 'sensible' boots and shoes, shielded by large umbrellas, I teetered along umbrella-less in foolish shoes. One of the perils of a two hour commute is that I'm invariably dressed for the wrong sort of day. Upon leaving London at 7am it was dark and ever-so-slightly icy. At 9am in Stevenage there was a blizzard. You'd think that by now I would have learnt the lesson and ensure I was permanently equipped with umbrella/wellies/sunglasses/layers so that I'd be prepared for every eventuality. Some people never learn.
What with the wind whipping round my ankles, I was pleased when it got to lunchtime and I had something hot to eat rather than the usual sandwich. These cold days call out for steaming bowls of soup or plates of comforting stew. I plan to be making many more soups this month to take with me to work. Which brings me neatly onto this very tasty offering which was introduced to me last week by my mother.
My passion for peas verges on the fanatical. To be honest it is faintly embarrassing. Sadly though, a good pea soup recipe has been for some time lacking in my life. You see almost all pea soup recipes contain mint. And I loathe mint. Almost as much as I love peas. What's the problem? I hear you ask. Just leave the mint out. I've tried that but I've always felt that the finished product was somehow... lacking. That it needed a little something extra.
Fortunately my mother came to the rescue (...or rather one of the magazines that comes with the Sunday papers did - not sure which one...). I'm not sure if it is the lettuce or the bacon crumbs that lifts this soup from the ordinary but whatever it is, it works for me.
As with most soups, it is a cinch to make. We made this with cream but, to be honest, I thought it was completely delicious before the addition of the cream. I'm not convinced that it is necessary. And at this time of year when most of us could do without the extra calories, that can only be good news! You'll also see that the recipe uses water rather than stock. It was perfectly delicious with plain water but it you wanted to inject more flavour then you could use stock.
Pea and lettuce soup
(courtesy of one of the Sunday colour supplements!)
8 spring onions
1 garlic clove
2 little gem lettuces
600g frozen peas (or spanking fresh ones, shelled)
1 litre water (or stock)
breadcrumbs made from 3-4 slices of bread
100g pancetta or smoky bacon
200ml double cream (optional)
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add finely chopped spring onions and garlic and sweat gently for around 3 minutes.
2. Slice the lettuces into small pieces and add to the pan along with the peas. Pour over 1 litre of water. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
3. Whilst the soup is simmering fry the pancetta until crisp along with the breadcrumbs - use a little extra fat if necessary. Chop very finely so you have crispy crumbs of bacon and breadcrumbs.
4. When the soup is ready, whizz with a stick blender or in a liquidizer. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the cream (if using) and stir to combine. Taste again and adjust seasoning as necessary.
5. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle a generous pinch of bacon crumbs in the centre.