This is such a lovely, fresh and soothing emulsion, that I am happy to keep a pitcher of it, for a solo-supper or between-meal refueling, in the refrigerator at any time in summer. And while I quite see the sense in using new sugar-sweet peas while they’re available, most peas lounge about in shops quite long enough for their pearly sweetness to turn to starch, in which case you can use frozen peas without feeling you’re utterly devoid of the seasonal virtues. If you are, however, using fresh peas, drop the pods into the water at the steeping stage, and then boil it all up again for ten minutes, just to extract every last bit of flavor. It’ll mean you have to strain the liquid before adding it to the peas themselves, which isn’t exactly hard work, but, on top of the shelling itself (though children seem to do this gladly, especially if watching TV at the same time) is still another procedure, should such factors hold any weight with you, as they often do with me.
Again, although I’ve stipulated vegetable stock, I mean nothing more trouble-some than adding a tablespoon or so of vegetable bouillon concentrate or vegetable stock powder to water.
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- Stalks from a bunch fresh mint with the leaves saved
- 1 tablespoon dried mint
- 18 ounces frozen petits pois (or 3 pounds 5 ounces of fresh peas, shelled and shells reserved)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 scallions, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1¼ cups sour cream
Pour the stock into a large bowl or pan and add the fresh mint stalks and the dried mint and leave to steep for 20 minutes to half an hour. If you’re using fresh peas, pour the stock along with the mints and pea pods directly into a pan and boil for about 10–15 minutes and then strain into a pitcher.
Pour the oil into a large saucepan and warm over medium heat. Add the chopped scallions and turn in the warm oil for a few minutes until slightly softened and then tumble in the peas. If you’re using frozen ones, there is no need to defrost them first.
Cook these, stirring with a wooden spatula all the while, over a low to medium heat until the peas have softened a little. Fish out the mint stalks from the stock and pour into the pan, or use the strained pod stock. It’s impossible, really, to say exactly how long it will take for the peas to be sufficiently soft, but think around 3–5 minutes. Leave to cool, and then blitz, in batches, in a blender or processor. Season to taste. If you’re making this at all in advance, it’s best to keep the pea purée creamless in the refrigerator until serving, at which time you should ideally blend it again with the sour cream.
Pour into cups or bowls and sprinkle with the chopped, reserved mint leaves.
This recipe serves 8, and includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.