This is the epitome of a garden dish, perfect for a light lunch or starter on a warm summer evening. It’s super-simple and can be whipped up in minutes. We use our homegrown peas at THE PIG-at Combe but (whisper it) we think it tastes pretty good with frozen. Basil oil to finish is the killer secret ingredient and a great alternative to the more usual mint pairing.
Serves 4 as a starter
This is a delicious stock and can be used for many dishes, so it’s always good to have some in the freezer.
For the vegetable stock (make in advance)
4 medium carrots
4 sticks celery
1 large white onion (or 2 small)
1 medium leek
20g soft herb stalks (such as coriander and parsley)
40ml lemon juice
125ml dry white wine
a good pinch of salt
For the basil oil
15 large basil leaves
80ml cold pressed rapeseed oil
For the soup
400g fresh or frozen peas
400ml vegetable stock
4 dessertspoons crème fraiche
Cut the vegetables into large cubes and put in a large pan with enough water to just cover them. Bring to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the herb stalks and boil for an extra 2 minutes. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice, peppercorns, white wine and salt.
Leave overnight and pass through a sieve the following day.
For the basil oil, prepare a pan of boiling salted water and a separate bowl of iced water. Take the basil leaves and blanch for 1 minute in the boiling water. As soon as the minute has passed, drain and place into ice-cold water till cold. Drain and pat dry on kitchen paper.
Add the basil to a small blender or spice grinder and pour over the rapeseed oil till it reaches the same level as the top of the leaves (around 100ml). Blitz on a high speed for 2-3 minutes then let it chill over ice. You can pass this through a muslin cloth or leave as it is if you want a more rustic look.
For the soup, pod the fresh peas and blanch in salted boiling water for 2 minutes; refresh in iced water and drain. If you’re using frozen peas, they’re fine to use straight from the freezer (and this helps keep the temperature down if you’re serving the soup straight away). Chill.
Put the peas in a bigger jug blender, add the chilled vegetable stock and cover to the top of the peas. Start blending on low then gradually increase the speed. You might need to adjust the amount of stock you’re adding, depending on how thick you want your soup. Check the seasoning.
When you’re ready to serve, pour the soup into a chilled bowl, add a dollop of crème fraîche and drizzle a little basil oil on top. Garnish with whichever herbs and petals you prefer – we use fennel tops, chives, borage and nasturtiums.
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