Author Notes: This recipe has roots in, believe it or not, homemade baby food. When my kids were babies, I'd puree whatever we were eating to feed them, which yielded exciting flavor combinations such as chicken with yam and pear with spinach and edamame. The only problem with cultivating a palate for freshly made baby food was what to do when we traveled and did not have access to a kitchen. When my older daughter was about 9 months old and already a good 3 or 4 months into enjoying the pleasures of homemade food, we went to London. She was still nursing then, but also supplemented with purees. I thought, she’s a baby, if she’s hungry she’ll eat any baby food. I guessed wrong (and probably should have test driven my theory before the trip; live and learn). Despite the tantalizing array of organic, fair trade baby food available in Tesco, with such exoticized ingredients as courgette (zucchini) and aubergine (eggplant), she would have none of it. It still looked like earth colored mush, and I didn’t even want to taste it myself, to be honest. So for a while, all she got was milk. That was fine, but not ideal. So whenever we had a meal, I looked for food suitable for a toothless infant. We ate a lot of curries, which met the pureéd requirement, but were far too spicy for a little babe. So we were relieved when we were eating fish and chips, and ordered a side of mushy peas for her, despite concerns about the salt. Not the same as mama’s, but she ate it. Mushy peas to the rescue!
A modern and sophisticated interpretation of the classic English mushy peas that saved our daughter from starving on that trip to London is a lovely chilled minted pea soup from Daniel Patterson, the chef at Coi in San Francisco Its sweetness is tempered by the tang of buttermilk, which gives it both a richness and silkiness that elevate it from its simple origins.
Inspired by the inventive Anglo-Indian cuisine I ate in London, I’ve adapted his recipe (published in The New York Times July 1, 2007) by garnishing with a swirl of an Indian spice-infused oil, with a nod to the mint chutneys that I love with samosas, pappadums, and kebabs.
- Beautiful, Memorable Food
Makes about 4 cups
Chilled Minted Pea Soup, adapted from Daniel Patterson of Coi, San Francisco
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 4 cups shelled fresh or frozen green peas, plus extra for garnish
- 10 fresh mint leaves
- salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Indian Spiced Oil for garnish (recipe follows)
- In a medium saucepan, bring the buttermilk to a simmer and add 4 cups of peas and a large pinch of salt. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring often so that the buttermilk does not boil over. The peas should not be fully cooked, just under al dente.
- Transfer the peas and liquid immediately to a blender with the mint leaves and, starting on low speed, carefully blend (holding the lid on firmly with a dishcloth), working up to high speed for 60 seconds.
- In order to preserve the vibrant color and flavor of the peas, the soup must be cooled immediately. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then rest the bowl inside a larger bowl full of ice water. Stir continuously until cool, tasting occasionally; you will notice that the soup becomes sweeter as it cools. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. Refrigerate until cold.
- To serve, ladle soup into bowls, shot glasses or Moroccan tea glasses, as I used here. Use a squeeze bottle to swirl a stream of the herb-infused oil on the top, and garnish with fresh peas, a sprig of mint and freshly ground black pepper.
Indian Spiced Oil, not used in the original version at Coi
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 quarter sized slices fresh ginger root, slightly crushed
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- 2 Thai green or Serrano chilies, minced
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
- Heat a frying pan over medium flame. When warm, add in cumin seeds and lightly toast for a few seconds until aromatic, being careful not to burn them. Remove toasted seeds from pan.
- Add olive oil to the pan, and heat over medium flame.
- Add garlic, ginger, onion, chiles and cilantro, and sauté for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.
- Remove from heat, and allow the oil mixture to sit for at least an hour to allow flavors to infuse.
- Strain infused oil. Add the toasted cumin seeds to the strained oil and transfer the oil and cumin mixture to a bottle with a squeeze tip. Use to garnish soup as above.