A paean to the pea

July 6, 2010

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I am an avid fan of the legume (see here, here, here and here, just for a few examples).

And those of us who love the legume have good reason. The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition points out here that a diet high in legumes, indeed, is “the most protective dietary predictor of survival amongst the elderly, regardless of their ethnicity.”

This same study goes on to report that:

“the significance of legumes persisted even after controlling for age at enrolment (in 5-year intervals), gender, and smoking. Legumes have been associated with long-lived food cultures such as the Japanese (soy, tofu, natto, miso), the Swedes (brown beans, peas), and the Mediterranean people (lentils, chickpeas, white beans).”

Given all this and the fact that my (cough) birthday is around the corner, I think the time is right to declare my adoration for the humble frozen pea.

What’s not to love about this little green baby? It’s virtually instant food, packed with nutritional goodness (unlike soggy, sodden canned ones – ugh), and so versatile. Chuck half a cupful into soups and curries, mash them up with a little with olive oil and prawns in linguine,  puree with roasted garlic to serve under pan-fried fish, mix steamed peas with chopped bacon or pancetta,  mash peas with some pecorino and olive oil (and broad beans!) and pepper to serve on toast.

I know you legume-lovers must have your own ideas of pea perfection, so do share … Meanwhile, here is a very simple minted pea and lettuce soup I made on the weekend. The flavour is sweet and fresh, the texture velvety, the colour is gorgeous and (perhaps because the pea, I believe, is a complex carbohydrate?)  this soup is surprisingly filling.

Minted pea soup

Serves 4-6

  • olive oil
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 baby cos lettuce, thoroughly washed & roughly chopped
  • 400-500g frozen peas
  • pinch sugar
  • 1½ cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • ½ bunch mint
  • salt & pepper
  • dash cream, to serve
  1. Sauté leek &  garlic till soft.
  2. Add shredded lettuce & peas to the pan with sugar and a little of the stock.
  3. When lettuce and peas are soft, remove to a food processor and puree till smooth, adding mint and as much stock as needed for a smooth mixture.
  4. Return mixture to pan and gradually add the remainder of the stock until the soup is the thickness you like (as water if still too thick) and season to taste.
  5. To serve, add a spoonful of cream to the base of each bowl, then add the soup and swirl cream through.


  1. We very often have frozen peas instead of ice cream in this house. My littles love them.

  2. “Every day I thank God, or his supermarket stand-in, for frozen peas. For me, they are a leading ingredient, a green meat, almost.” (Nigella.)
    I am a huge fan of the frozen pea, which proves itself much ‘fresher’ than the run of the mill, shop-bought pea, often left to get starchy, fibrous and bitter. Another soup:
    Sue’s Pea and Fennel soup (for 4)
    (more summery than wintery, but delicious and quick)
    Fry one chopped onion and one chopped fennel bulb in a tbsp or two of olive oil.Add 1 litre chicken stock. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 5 minutes. Add 500 grams frozen peas, bring back to simmer and cook further 2 – 3 mins. Add a very generous handful of rocket, and half that quantity of mint. Process until smooth. Add salt, pepper and 3 tbsp lemon juice. Garnish with a few peas.

  3. I love to eat them raw, straight from the pod.

    What a beautiful soup- surely nothing could be greener I thought, then I read Fiona’s recipe…

    Speaking of colour, I was once rebuked in a Home Economics class (After twelve months we could whip up anything from Blancmange to Apple Snow in only three hours) for producing a too monotone three course meal – Veg soup, stew and choc cake.

    Years of therapy later I can see it was fair comment. Though some colours could be a lot worse than brown for food – or in my case brown with flecks of orange and green, a dusting of icing sugar,and a poisonous bloom from the school garden.

    Beetroot risotto for example, which a friend ordered last night, teamed with Campari.

    But a delicious all green meal would be easy, starting with this Martian Soup.

  4. I can’t help thinking this looks like it would make a terrific gazpacho… not that I’m at all keen for cold soup in this weather, just that its vibrant colour seems the very promise of spring (which, let’s face it, can’t come soon enough)!

    Looks scrummy, and I’m always keen to do something new with my bag of frozen green soldiers.

    • Dr Di, the wondrous late Greta Anna has a recipe for a chilled pea soup in the orange book which I used to make regularly in the 80s and it’s fab. I recall garnishing it with a blanched snow pea and 2 crossed chives and thought I was the height of sophistication.

      • And indeed you were, Stephanie! I am still a bit of a garnish obsessive… I think it started during university dinner parties as a way of deflecting attention from What Lies Beneath, and I’ve never been able to shake the habit. But your miniature art installation sounds tres classy!

  5. Pea lovers will no doubt already know about mattar paneer which works beautifully with frozen peas. It has loads of ginger, mint and a fair bit of paneer, a firm white cheese, which you can easily get at Indian grocers. It’s a complete meal with some rice or flat bread. I use Charmaine Solomon’s recipe from the Complete Asian cookbook.

  6. I was just talking about this with my husband the other day. Peas are the ultimate convenience food. If we had to shell them every night, we’d never have them so often. But rip open the bag and voila – they complete any meal. Never made pea soup though. You are just full of good ideas.

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