Justin Burdett's Chilled English Pea Soup with Garlic Cream & Pickled Ramps

June  5, 2013

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A chilled soup that (finally) feels like soup -- thanks to a clever cooking technique and some seductive spring trimmings.

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Cold soup is, more often than not, a compromise. Sure, it serves its purpose: dinner from the blender on a sticky day is better than a dinner you have to cook (or no dinner at all). 

But inevitably, it's the desperate product of an 80 degree kitchen and a loss of motivation. And isn't it pretty much just a smoothie? (I bet you didn't want a smoothie for dinner. I bet what you'd really like is soup.)

This week's genius recipe -- a chilled pea soup from Chef Justin Burdett of Ruka's Table in North Carolina -- is a very good approximation of normal soup, but one fit for a steamy late spring. You barely have to cook a thing, but all of soup's best qualities -- the playful marriage of smooth and crisp; rich and bright -- are there. Let me explain.

  blanching peas

The peas are blanched in salted water, then shocked -- also in salted (ice) water. The second dose of salt isn't part of standard blanching procedure, but here you're going to take some of the salty water your peas are chilling in and put it right in your soup. 

"It’s already cold and seasoned," Burdett explained -- with salt, of course, and slightly with the taste of the peas. It's a little bit like making an instant, pre-chilled stock. "We do this with all the vegetables we blanch," Burdett said.

From there, you marinate your freshly blanched peas (and water) with some buttermilk, lemon zest, and loads of fresh herbs. 

While they mingle, you'll chop up some garlic, melt it down in butter and cream, and blitz it into a miracle condiment.



You were supposed to pickle some ramp bulbs the night before, but I've done this last minute and stuck them in the freezer to cool down extra fast. It's fine!

ramps  pickling ramps

pickling ramps  pickled ramps

Blend and strain the cold pea soup, then swirl together with the cream, Rorschach-style. Slice those ramps to scatter over the top.


It's the tug between a bright, weightless green soup, a swirl of straight decadence, and flickers of brine that make this real soup, beyond a doubt. One you'd happily eat in less desperate times, but one you're thankful for right now. 


Justin Burdett's Chilled English Pea Soup with Garlic Cream & Pickled Ramps

Adapted from Chef Justin Burdett of Ruka's Table in Highlands, North Carolina

Serves 4 as an appetizer

English Pea Soup:

4 quarts water, divided
1/2 cup kosher salt, divided
1 quart fresh English peas, blanched and shocked in salted water (reserving 1/2 of the salted shock water)
1 spring onion, chopped
3 to 4 basil leaves
3 to 4 mint leaves
2 to 3 sprigs of dill
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Black pepper, freshly ground to taste

Garlic Cream and Pickled Ramps:

1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy cream
Salt, to taste
1 quart Mason jar, filled with ramp bulbs (or substitute spring onions)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom 

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Fiona
  • janete vargas
    janete vargas
  • Angela Rinaldi
    Angela Rinaldi
  • MenCanCook
  • poetinthepantry
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Fiona July 14, 2013
Thanks, I'll let you know!
Fiona July 14, 2013
What can I substitute for ramps as I can't get them in my area?
Kristen M. July 14, 2013
You might try spring onions or shallots -- let us know how it works out!
janete V. June 11, 2013
I made it tonight and it turned out so so salty, nobody liked it .. where did I went wrong ?... 1/2 cup of salt seems a bit too much but I followed the recipe ,,,
Kristen M. June 11, 2013
Janete, I'm really sorry to hear that -- did you use kosher salt? If you used table salt or fine sea salt, that may have tipped it over the edge.
Angela R. June 10, 2013
Would love to print this, is there a print friendly version?
Kristen M. June 11, 2013
Angela, if you click through to the recipe, there's a printer icon below the photo. It's linked above (and here's the link too):
MenCanCook June 9, 2013
Looks fantastic, Kristen... I'ma make some of that real soon. Have to see if I can find some ramps here in NC. Had 'em growing wild in my yard in CA! Well done...
poetinthepantry June 6, 2013
This soup is amazing--and I am not into chilled soups or even pea soups, for that matter! Delicious!
Kristen M. June 6, 2013
Kudos to you for trying it despite! (I feel the same way, in case you couldn't tell.) So glad you liked it.
mrslarkin June 5, 2013
My ramps are pickling!
Kristen M. June 6, 2013
You're so fast!
readerwriter June 5, 2013
I am very fond of chilled soups, and this one looks wonderful.
Kristen M. June 6, 2013
I hope you like it -- we thought it was pretty wonderful.