Jamie Pea Soup with Parmesan-Pistachio Crisp

This pea soup is in episode 1 (click here for the video) and is easy to make, but just needs a bit of elbow grease where you push, scrape and rub the pulpy puree through a sieve to get a silken texture for the soup and try to strain out as much liquid out of the pulp as possible, to use for the Sweet Pea, Ricotta & Thyme Cigarillos. It's a spring-summer kind of soup that can be served chilled, but can be made all year round since we use fresh-frozen petits pois here (nothing wrong with frozen, since freezing captures the ripeness of the sweet peas plucked at the height of its season).

And speaking of freezing... I'm a big fan of the freezer. A lot of people say "frozen" kind of apologetically or disdainfully, but for most things I think its the best way of capturing freshness -- things like bread, hard cheeses, seafood, sauces and soups should definitely be frozen if not consumed within a day.

Same goes for this particular recipe; if you're making this one day in advance of your party, let it cool to room temperature then pour it into a Tupperware container or sturdy Ziplock bag, and keep it in the freezer until the day you're ready to serve it. Let it naturally liquefy to room temperature then heat it up again, stirring often, on the stove.

Jamie’s Pea Soup with Parmesan-Pistachio Crisp
Serves 6-8

For the pea soup:

  • 1 Liter boiling water
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes, roughly chopped (I use Brodo d’Oro brand from April Gourmet supermarket)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 100g leeks (about 1 large leek), sliced into coins
  • 150g potato (about 1 small potato) diced small
  • 400g frozen sweet peas (for best results, buy imported frozen petit pois peas like Ronduelle brand at April Gourmet supermarket)
  • 200g Romaine lettuce, the dark leafy tops torn off and the lower brunch parts roughly chopped
  • A bit of watercress to garnish

Parmesan-Pistachio Crisp

  • 300g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 40g raw pistachios, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper, about 3 twists from the pepper mill

A stick blender or smoothie blender

For the Parmesan crisps:

  1. Mix the grated cheese, chopped pistachios and black pepper in a bowl, then sprinkle it in an even, thin layer in a cool frying pan.
  2. Heat the frying pan on the lowest heat, then watch the cheese cook. You will notice the cheese will become transparent as the oil separates. Let it cook about 2-3 minutes; you want to let the bottom turn brown like amber and a bit crispy-stiff before you flip it (if you don’t let it cook long enough the cheese will be too soft to lift and flip). Use two plastic or silicone spatulas to gently lift and flip the cheese layer. Be confident and gentle for best results. Show that cheese who's boss.
  3. Let it cook another 1-2 minutes on lowest heat, then turn off the heat and transfer the cheese crisp onto a wire rack to let it cool. Repeat until you have enough Parmesan crisps.
  4. When the crisps are fully cooled, transfer to a large plastic container with air-tight cover and keep at a cool room temperature (do not refrigerate); if you have those little bags of silicone dessicant (found in snack food bags like for roasted seaweed), then perfect, put it in the container with the cheese crisps.

For the soup:

  1. In a heat-safe bowl, add the stock cubes and hot water and set aside; the cubes will “melt” by itself.
  2. In a medium-sized stock pot, heat the olive oil on medium flame, then add the leeks and diced potatoes and sautée gently for about 2 minutes, without letting the leeks get too brown.
  3. Pour the vegetable stock into the pot, cover and let it simmer on medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the frozen peas and let it cook 1 minute, turn off the heat and then add the lettuce, pushing the lettuce to the bottom of the pot to let it gently absorb the heat – we don't want to overcook the lettuce. Add sea salt and black pepper to your taste (although I find the vegetable stock doesn’t need extra salt).
  5. Let the soup cool for 5 minutes, then insert your stick blender into the pot and blend until smooth; or, gently ladle the soup into a smoothie blender and blend, covered with air hole open, on low speed until smooth.
  6. Set a strainer over a pot, then pour the soup into the strainer; you might have to do this in two batches. Use a rubber spatula (and some muscle power!) to stir and push the soup puree, squeezing out all the liquid out of the puree, until the pulpy contents of the strainer are as dry as possible – don’t waste any of that delicious liquid! Lift the strainer slightly and gently scrape the underside of the strainer to get the smooth velvety puree into the soup. Scoop out the pea pulp in the strainer and save it in a container; refrigerate until ready to use for the cigarillos.
  7. Refrigerate the soup until ready to re-heat for serving. You can also transfer this soup in zip-lock bags and freeze it for up to 1 month.
  8. To serve, re-heat the soup in a soup pot, divide into bowls and drizzle over the mint and basil oil (if using). Top with watercress and Parmesan crisp broken into the size you want.