I can’t stress how much I love soup. Well, as much as I can’t stress how much AK hates it! He thinks only “sick” people should have soup and khichdi and all that kind of food. He doesn’t get how I can’t have a Chinese meal without soup. Or how I can make a meal of just soup. Admittedly the Indian summer is a big deterrent, which is why I have to make the most of my soup-loving side in the winter. It helps that our house is the most drafty house there can be. And that the lack of central heating makes me want to stay curled up in bed all day long, in my razai (heavy winter quilt), with a comforting bowl of soup.
Moving on to peas – for no apparent reason, I seem to not like them much anymore. I’ve always had plenty but somewhere along the way, things just changed. I mean I don’t hate them, but they’re definitely not topping any favourites lists. They can’t be allowed to overpower any dish or I’ll just pick them all out. But strangely, I still love this pea dominated soup.
My mom didn’t start cooking chicken and meat until a few years ago. Although she’s caught up brilliantly, her veggie creations still top the list. Which is why most of the home-made soups we had growing up were vegetarian. She would make pea soup occasionally to change things around and that’s the one form of peas I still love.
This is a different version from hers but definitely reminescent of the same. To change things around, I added some potato for body along with bacon and sesame for flavour. I was quite pleased with the result, even if I do say so myself!
Here’s what I used for 2 servings:
1 cup frozen peas (fresh is better but I don’t like peas enough to buy them fresh and shell them)
4-5 rashers streaky bacon
1 tsp sesame seeds
3-4 medium pods garlic
1 large green chilli, slit lengthwise
1 large potato
2 medium onions
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh parsley (you can even use dhaniya/ cilantro or the green part of spring onions)
Salt, to taste
Here’s how I made it:
I chopped up the onions, potatoes, garlic and green chillies.
You don’t need to be worried about them being chopped fine because they’re all going to get mashed anyway. Even size would help even cooking, but that’s about it.
Then I toasted the sesame seeds in a skillet – medium to low heat for about 3-4 minutes – and put them aside for later. They should be stirred often to avoid burning and removed from the pan as soon as they are done.
You should be able to smell the nutty aroma. It really makes all the difference to the soup. Then, in the same skillet, I fried the bacon on medium heat till crisp, about 3-4 minutes. There’s enough fat in the rashers and you can just put them directly on the skillet without greasing it. Flip just once, halfway through.
I removed the bacon from the skillet and put it aside. Transferring the fat rendered into my soup saucepan and placing it on medium heat, I added the onions and fried them till they were translucent and just beginning to brown.
Once they were done, I added the chilli, garlic and the potatoes, along with 1/2 tsp of salt.
After frying all of it for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, I added the peas and cooked for another 2 minutes. It cooked easily without sticking and burning because of the salt.
Adding about 3 cups of water, I increased the heat to high until it came to a rolling boil.
Lowering the heat to medium-low, I covered the pan with a lid and continued to cook until the potatoes were done, about 10 minutes.
Once that was done, I took the pot of the heat to puree the soup using the immersion blender. Right then, I discovered that I had lost the adapter for the blender. Tough luck. Out came the masher and I set about mashing the veggies manually. Worked my biceps well and good!
Adding the chopped parsley (saving a few sprigs for garnish) and freshly ground black pepper, I put the soup back on heat to bring it to one last boil.
Lastly, checked and adjusted the salt. Added the reserved parsley, crumbled bacon (that I fried earlier) and the toasted sesame. And served. Ta-da!
With any home-made soup, I really love breadsticks. But by the time I decided to make this, the neighborhood bakery had closed. So in a pinch, I cut 3 slices of dalia (cracked wheat) bread into 4 fingers each, drizzled them with a little olive oil, sprinkled some salt, pepper and paprika and toasted them in a pre-heated oven at 150 C for 10 minutes.
I popped the sticks in while the soup was at the first boil. They became nice and crisp when they cooled down, and I didn’t miss bakery bread-sticks one bit…
I thought I preferred pureed pea soup, but I’m very glad I was forced to manually mash it. The texture was pretty great and was complimented by the nutty seeds and bacon crumble. Definitely calls for a repeat, very soon…
- For a non-pork version, you can add a little bit of chicken or vegetable stock for flavour. And of course use a vegetable oil or olive oil or even butter to fry the vegetables. I’m not sure if boiled chicken would give it the same effect as the fried bacon, but there need not be a meaty garnish at all.
- For a completely vegetarian version, dispense with the stock and meaty garnish altogether. Some fried tofu/ paneer or soya nuggets could add the crunchy texture instead.