The 1970s are long gone, which means that entertaining a group of friends no longer means slaving in the kitchen over a hot stove for hours (if not days) before the event. I'm mentioning this because, no doubt, there are those who are already in a flap about 'the big day' that's so quickly approaching. Yes, you know what I'm talking about. I can see you nodding!
Recently, Peter and I were introduced to a delightful couple, Jan and Chris, who are fortunate enough to spend half the year living in a village in France, and the other half living in a cul de sac in suburban Canberra.
Both of them love to cook, as evidenced by Chris's flavoursome spicy avocado dip (which I've now enjoyed on two occasions... and, Chris has kindly promised me the recipe). Jan demonstrated her marvellous culinary skills with her version of the chich French creme de petits pois, or cream of pea soup which, incidentally, she makes sans the cream.
As a group of friends sat at around the dining table solving the problems of the modern world on a summery Sunday afternoon, our hostess breezed out of the kitchen with a couple of plastic lemonade bottles in her hands. They were filled with an interesting-looking green liquid, which Jan poured into mugs and served to us.
What a delicous surprise! Chilled pea and lettuce soup. 'Please Jan may I have some more,' I said, licking my lips after finishing the first serving.
Here now is Jan's adaptation of cream of pea soup, minus the cream - which I have aptly named as follows below. Jan swears it's a doddle to make. In my books, that makes the recipe a keeper. No?
CHILLED PEA & LETTUCE SOUP A LA JAN
110g unsalted butter
500g fresh or frozen shelled baby peas
heart of an iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 litre chicken or veal stock, perhaps a little more
a pinch of salt and sugar, to taste
light cream, to serve (optional)
Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over a low heat and add the shredded lettuce. When the lettuce begins to wilt, stir in the peas. If using frozen peas, crank up the heat momentarily and cook, uncovered, until the peas have thawed. Sprinkle over the salt and sugar, and cook gently for 5-10 minutes.
Now, add the stock, bring the soup to the boil and simmer it for 10-15 minutes longer, until the peas are tender. Allow the soup to cool slightly, before pouring it into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until the soup is smooth. Transfer to a jug and chill until ready to serve. Ladle into petite-sized soup bowls or cups. Add a dollop of cream to each bowl if desired. Serves 4-6, or maybe more dependent on appetites.
(Note: while our hostess chilled the soup, it can also be served warm, fresh from the stove top).
Tell me, dear readers, do you like to serve chilled soups? Are you a fan of baby peas? And do you prefer simple recipes over complex ones when you are entertaining?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.