Pea soup, vegetarian sausages, and other animals…

I made a pot of rather good pea soup a couple of days ago and while, of late, I’ve got into the habit of making notes as I go along, I reverted to type and this one was just thrown together on the fly. This is how I’ve cooked for most of my life. Not saying it has any particular merit, other than it works for me and has the virtue that I’m not going to cock something up while distracted with note-taking.

Anyway, I like pea soup, but green split peas – and this seems to be a world-wide problem based on admittedly limited feedback to my blog post on the subject – simply will not cook properly these days, becoming a gritty, green, sludge instead of a smooth purée. So I thought I’d use frozen peas instead.

There are many recipes for such soup, embracing entire spectra of complexity and pretentiousness, but I wanted simplicity and flavour – that’s all a good soup needs. This is mine; makes 3 litres, approximately (as usual this is what was in my fridge and freezer – soup is flexible, and if you have something a little different, don’t worry about it):-

3 Waitrose medium organic carrots

3 Sainsbury’s medium-sized strong cooking onions

1 rounded teaspoon dried basil (NOT fresh; or use dried oregano or marjoram instead)

2 Kallo organic veg cubes

1 teaspoon Marigold stock powder

400g Birds Eye Frozen Garden Peas

1 heaped teaspoon Maldon Sea salt (this really does make a difference)

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon celery salt

50g butter

2 teaspoons golden caster sugar (more or less, to taste)

***

When it comes to onions, unless it’s red onions I’m after, I honestly don’t pay much attention and, if I want a particular depth of flavour, then I’d normally use Echalion shallots. These onions, though, are excellent – amazingly crisp, strongly flavoured and pungent enough to make anyone’s eyes water. The carrots are pretty good, too.

Peel and chop the onions and carrots – not too small as they’re going to be blitzed in a blender, but not so large that the carrots take forever to cook. So, melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan (as usual, I used a stainless steel casserole with a heavy base), and gently sweat off the onions and carrots until the onions are softened but not coloured.

Add everything else except the sugar, salt, and pepper (dissolve the Kallo cubes and Marigold powder in hot water first), cover with boiling water and simmer, covered, until the peas are tender. This took a surprisingly long time, mainly because the skins are remarkably resistant.

Once you’re happy with them, blitz them in the blender in several batches – no more than half full, start slowly, and build up to maximum speed. This avoids splattering the underside of the lid with soup, and making a mess when you remove it. Give each batch a couple of minutes on max, otherwise you will have a mass of pea-skin shards in the soup, which I find annoying – or you can push it through a sieve to remove them – your call. To be honest, in future I’d go with the sieve – the result is much better and the amount of additional work minimal.

When finished, season to taste with the salt, pepper, celery salt** and sugar, and set aside to cool. Soups – stews and casseroles too – are always better the next day, which is something I intend to have carved on my tombstone, just below “See – told you I was sick!”.

**I use home-made. If you use a commercial variety, taste carefully.

spoonie spoon

This gets one spoon as a very spoonie-friendly recipe (you can, of course, use pre-prepped carrots and onions to make it even easier); two spoons if you sieve it – or get someone else to do it.

My initial batch was a little disappointing, since when I’ve omitted the olive oil and added more butter and a little sugar – problem solved. They’ve both been taken into account in this version.

If you want a thicker soup, add a couple of level tablespoons of plain flour to the last batch in the blender, stir into the bulk and cook out gently, stirring so it doesn’t stick. Personally, I prefer soup to be more natural and not add thickeners, but each to their own. Am I good to you or what?

Come with me, briefly, back into the mists of time, to my original stint as a veggie. Back then the Israeli company, Tivall, had just created a range of veggie foods for Jews wishing to escape the tyranny of the Kosher kitchen by seeking refuge in vegetarianism, and jaded UK veggies seized upon them too, as they were way better than any other meat analogues then available. One of my favourite things was to slice their veggie frankfurters into a pan of pea soup and, hey, it still is, though  I’ll swear that the franks were bigger 20 years ago!

Tesco and  Ocado/Waitrose have a small selection of Tivall products – as do Goodness Direct. Unfortunately, a small selection is all the UK market gets these days. I did ask Tivall why, but I guess they just couldn’t be arsed telling me.

If I have favourites, it’s the franks, the chargrilled burgers and the schnitzels, for the taste and the mouth feel, though they need handling with care as they’re very easy to over-cook, which does them no favours, but treated well they are actually pretty damn good – just don’t walk away and leave them, especially the schnitzels and burgers, as it’s a very fine line between “Oh, wow!” and “Oh, FFS!”

One last note – anti-Israeli diatribes are not welcome – this is about food, not politics. Just so we’re clear on that.

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