Chilled Pea Soup with Cheddar Cream and Soft-boiled Quail’s Eggs
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a starter or light lunch
My top tip for making a tasty and vibrant green pea soup is s to work as quickly as possible to capture and retain the freshness of the peas.
When fresh garden peas appear on market stalls and my homegrown peas are ready to be harvested, it’s a wonderful reminder that the British summer is in full swing. Freshly picked peas taste sweeter and better than those that are even just a few days old. For this reason, frozen peas are as close as one can get to the real thing, unless you have your own kitchen garden. In fact, peas are very easy to grow as they do not need a lot of space and they are not prone to diseases.
Ingredients & Method
For the Cheddar cream
- 400ml milk
- 150ml vegetable stock
- 50g unsalted butter
- 50g plain flour
- 40g extra mature Cheddar cheese, grated
- 60ml double cream
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the chilled pea soup
- 30g unsalted butter
- 1 large banana shallot, finely sliced
- 300g fresh garden peas (shelled weight) (frozen peas could be used)
- a sprig of flowering fresh thyme, leaves only
- 50ml dry vermouth or dry white wine
- 300ml hot vegetable or white chicken stock
- 100ml double cream
- 4 tablespoons (shelled) fresh garden peas
- 2 quail’s eggs
- extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- fresh pea tops
- finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
First, make the Cheddar cream. Bring the milk and stock to the boil in a saucepan, then remove from the heat. Melt the butter in a separate saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously, then season with salt and pepper. Keep the pan over a medium heat and gradually add the hot milk mixture, a ladleful or so at a time, stirring continuously, until all the milk mixture has been added and you have a smooth, thickened sauce. Cook over a medium heat for 6 minutes, stirring.
Remove from the heat, add the Cheddar cheese and cream and stir until smooth. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until the sauce is really smooth. Pass the Cheddar cream through a fine sieve and then pour it into a cream whipper. Charge with 2 gas pellets, shake vigorously, then refrigerate for 2–3 hours so that the mixture thickens and chills completely.
Make the soup. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the shallot, then cover and sweat over a low heat for 7–8 minutes or until tender but not coloured. Add the peas, thyme leaves and salt and pepper and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes or so.
Increase the heat to high, then add the vermouth to the pan and let the liquid bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it. Boil rapidly over a high heat for 5–7 minutes or until the vermouth turns syrupy and coats the vegetables. Add the hot stock and cream, bring back to the boil and boil for about 2 minutes or until the peas are cooked and tender.
Carefully transfer the soup to a blender and purée until smooth. Quickly pass the soup through a fine sieve into a bowl set over ice. You want to chill the soup as quickly as possible to keep the bright green colour. Once cool, cover and chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve – you will need to chill the soup for at least 2 hours or until it is completely cold (alternatively, chill it over ice to speed up the chilling process).
While the soup and Cheddar cream are chilling, prepare the peas and eggs for serving. Blanch the peas in a small pan of boiling salted water for about 2 minutes or until tender. Drain, refresh in iced water and drain again. Add the quail’s eggs to a separate covered pan of boiling water and boil for 2 and 1/2 minutes or until soft-boiled. Drain, refresh in cold water, then drain again and leave to cool completely. Peel the shells from the cold eggs, then halve them lengthways and season with salt and pepper.
To serve, lightly crush the blanched peas with a fork, season with salt and pepper and add a drop or two of olive oil. Divide the crushed peas between 4 chilled soup bowls, then carefully place a soft-boiled egg half on top of each portion, placing it slightly off centre. Pour the chilled soup around the egg halves. Shake the cream whipper vigorously and squirt some Cheddar cream next to each egg half. Garnish with the pea tops, flowers, Parmesan cheese and a few drops of olive oil. Serve.