Pea and herb soup with soda bread

29 July 2013
The Irish folk who read here, and maybe those from the UK too, will know of Maura Laverty, but I have just discovered her. Sadly Maura died many years ago but her books live on. Currently I'm eagerly awaiting her book Full and Plenty, published in 1960, to arrive. She is my new inspiration.  This is from Full and Plenty:

Cooking is the poetry of housework. But it is satisfying in twenty other different ways as well. There is a grand warm companionable feeling to be got out of the thought that every time you baste a roast or beat an egg or do any other little ordinary kitchen job, you are making yourself one in the the Grand Order of Homemakers, past, present and to come.

Perfect. Lovely. True.

It was cold here yesterday, with an overcast sky, so I made soda bread to honour Maura. I followed her recipe, it's very similar to my own and although I didn't use her winter buttermilk recipe in this soda bread; I will make it and try it in a future loaf. I used commercial buttermilk. I think soda bread is absolutely delicious made on buttermilk, but if I didn't have any, I'd use whey instead. I always have a jar of whey in the fridge.  Using either of them will give your soda bread an extra lift that plain milk just doesn't give.

We had warm soda bread for lunch, along with fresh green pea and herb soup. Jamie was here with us and when we went out to pick the peas, we tried not to eat too many of them out in the garden. It's such a temptation. We're growing sugar snap peas and have an over abundance of them, so this was a good reason to thin them out. We used the peas and the pods in the soup to avoid waste.

We've been teaching Jamie a few of our most simple chores lately. Saturday was his first day setting the lunch table - just knives and forks with a glass of water for everyone. It's simple and doable for him, and he really loved helping and working with his family. Pea picking is another simple chore for him. All it requires is for the pea pod to be picked from the vine without too much of the vine coming with it. I showed him how I run my thumb nail over the stem and although he can't do that, it loosened the pods enough for him to pick them and put them in the harvest basket.

I cook quite a few vegetable soups using this technique - I boil onion, the vegetable - this time peas but it could also be pumpkin, potato, asparagus, leeks, carrot, cauliflower etc., salt and pepper in plain water. You could use homemade chicken stock if you had it but I think it's a waste of the stock as it masks the flavour of the vegetables you're using. So my recipe today is:
  • about 2 litres/quarts water
  • fresh peas, including the pods, topped and tailed
  • one large onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cream to finish it off, optional
Place all the above in a saucepan and bring to the boil. With the lid on, simmer for about five minutes or until the peas have turn bright green. Take off the heat, add mint and parsley, blitz in a food processor or with a stick blender, taste to adjust seasonings. After adding the soup to a bowl, drizzle in a circle of cream or a blob of sour cream.

Delicious, and I'm sure Maura would approve of it alongside her soda bread. And another good thing about soda bread is that later in the day, around about afternoon tea time, you can make up a couple of slices with homemade jam and cream. Along with a cup of tea, there is nothing better on a cool Sunday afternoon. No dinner required, thank you.