This lovely fresh green soup takes minutes to make, using baby spinach and frozen peas, but it does need a good home-made chicken or vegetable stock to add depth. Don't omit the zingy topping: it's the contrast between the cool minty lemony creaminess and the metallic tang of the hot soup that gives this dish its special character.
I really think mint is the most underrated of herbs, and I don't know why it's not used with the same abandon as coriander and parsley.
Take care not to overcook the spinach, or you will end up with a mess of muddy olive green.
Spinach and Pea Soup with Creamy Lemony Mint Topping
For the soup:
1 T (15 ml) olive oil or butter
a small onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
400 g baby spinach, rinsed (two 'pillow' packs)
3 cups (750 ml) frozen peas
a thumb-long sprig of mint
1.25 litres (5 cups) boiling chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 t (2.5 ml) grated nutmeg
salt and milled black pepper
For the topping:
3/4 cup (180 ml) crème fraîche or sour cream
the finely grated zest of half a lemon
4 t (20 ml) fresh lemon juice
10 fresh mint leaves, very finely shredded
salt and pepper (white pepper, if have have it)
finely chopped chives
First make the topping. Put the crème fraîche into a small bowl and beat for 30 seconds until soft. Add the lemon zest and juice and the mint, stir well and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate while you make the soup.
Heat the olive oil or butter in a large pot and add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until soft and translucent, but don't allow the garlic to brown. Pile all the wet spinach, the peas and the mint sprig into the pot, toss well to coat and cook over a high heat for two to three minutes, until the spinach is just wilted. Add a generous pinch of salt and pour in the hot stock. Cover and bring rapidly to the boil. Cook for five or so minutes, or until the peas are just tender and the spinach is still bright green. Remove from the heat. Fish out the mint sprig and discard. Whizz to a fine purée using a liquidizer or stick blender. Skim off any accumulated foam. Stir in the nutmeg and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Serve piping hot, topped with big blobs of cold crème fraîche and chopped chives.
- you can use young Swiss chard in place of spinach, but take care to remove all the fibrous stems.
- if you're watching calories, use thick white Greek yoghurt in place of crème fraîche or sour cream.