Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Green Serving

In case you missed it, this week's ST(Straits Times) Mind Your Body section featured the upcoming Singapore Meatout Week 2006, starting from 22 to 30 July, a campaign to encourage more people to eat less meat and more plant foods. There are various noble and worthy reasons to 'meatout' which relate to the saving of animals, the environment and mankind in general, but my primary reason for even contemplating a 'meatout' is a selfish one - hubby and I are way too much into meat, and ever since we started our slow crawl into middle-age, the expanding girth and creaking weighing machine in the mornings have become the 'in-your-face' signposts of the need for detoxification and some healthy time-out from meat every once in awhile.

And what a wonderful coincidence that I should decide to go totally GREEN a couple of days ago (before the ST article came out) by attempting my first green pea soup!
Green Pea Soup

I don't know about you but I've always thought green garden peas (petits pois) to be rather insipid as a vegetable, their only goal in life being to end up as a side dish to accompany the real dish (for example, a good thick slab of steak). I remember as a kid, hating to eat my peas and counting them one by one as I carefully stabbed my fork on each. I was definitely not enamoured by peas.

So it was with great pleasure when I discovered that a single spoonful of pureed green pea soup was a heady concentration of the fresh and sweet flavors of garden peas. Instead of swirling in a dollop of sour cream, I added a mushroom cream made from dried shiitake mushrooms, which imparted an intense earthy punch to the soup. A wonderful start for a 'meatout' campaign!

If you are interested to try this out:
  • To make the mushroom cream:
  1. soften 4 to 5 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of hot water
  2. when softened, remove from soaking liquid, rinse and chop up the mushrooms (reserving 1 or 2 pieces to be sliced into lengths for garnishing the soup)
  3. heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, add the chopped mushrooms and some thinly sliced shallots and cook on medium heat until shallots are slightly browned
  4. add a tablespoon or so of white wine (or if you prefer, Chinese cooking wine), and a few minutes later, followed by a 1/3 cup of chicken broth and some of the mushroom-soaking liquid
  5. boil until the mixture is reduced by half, bring the fire down to low and add 1/3 cup of double cream and simmer for about 5 minutes or so until the mixture thickens slightly, season with salt and pepper
  6. place the mushroom cream in a blender and puree until smooth, return to pan and keep warm
  • To make pea soup:
  1. heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, add some sliced shallots and cook until softened
  2. add 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to boil before adding about 3 cups of defrosted green peas (about 1 and a half bags) - remember to reserve a handful of the peas for the soup garnish
  3. add about a tablespoon of chopped mint for flavor, and simmer the pea mixture for about 3 to 4 minutes until the peas are tender
  4. puree the pea mixture in batches in a blender, and now comes the hardest part - sieving the pureed soup through a coarse sieve into a pot and pressing down on the solids with the back of a huge wooden spoon (a lot of muscle work here - how I wished there was a simpler way to get all that mushy goodness out of the pureed soup!)
  5. reheat the soup in the pot and season with salt and pepper
  • To make garnish:
  1. heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan and add the sliced mushrooms and reserved peas
  2. season with salt and cook over medium heat for a minute or two until just softened
  3. TO SERVE SOUP: ladle soup into bowls, swirl in the mushroom cream (or if you're like me and a stickler for design, use an icing bag or conical bag), garnish with the cooked mushroom slices and peas and a few sprigs of mint.....
Psst... don't be put off by the many steps to the final ladle, it really isn't all that difficult (other than the sieving) and the resulting goodness in one spoonful is worth it!
A Green Serving

And if you think you can 'meatout' for a day or two, drop by and do an online pledge, where you can:
Option 1: pledge to go without meat for a day or more.
Option 2: pledge to go meatless for the entire week or more.
Option 3: if you are already vegetarian, pledge to take a non-vegetarian for a vegetarian meal during Singapore Meatout Week

As for me... I always start with small steps and Option 1 shouldn't be too harmful for me!


Blogger boo_licious said...

Wow! That soup has me green with envy. I often go meatless and carboless during dinner time so this sounds like a good try. Thanks for the wonderful suggestion.

7/14/2006 03:36:00 AM  
Anonymous umami said...

I love pea soup, but never thought to combine it with mushroom cream. Good idea, thanks!

7/14/2006 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Colin said...

That mushroom cream looks like a wonderful creation, but I'm afraid I could never 'meatout'!

7/14/2006 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love your magnificent pictures!

That soup looks very appetizing. I have no problem going "meatout", because that's what I often do since meat here in Switzerland is quite overpriced! But I do love my meat at least once a week!!!...

7/14/2006 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous evan said...

cath, the soup looks really really good!! its really a coincidence coz i've been craving for the same kind of soup for the past few days. and your recipe really came in handy. i can have this chilled too right? coz some restaurants serve cold pea soup =)

7/14/2006 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

@boo_licious, you're very healthy to be able to go meatless and carboless at dinner times.. keep it up!

@umami, hope you like it when you get the chance to make this!

@colin, to go 'meatout' sounds horrendous, doesn't it? but I take comfort that it doesn't have to be often, only every once in awhile!

@rosa, thanks, is meat very expensive in Switzerland? I didn't know that at all!

@evan, do try and yes, it can eaten chilled as well but I prefer mine nicely heated up :-)

7/14/2006 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous slurp! said...

i love green pea. i heard the small pea is sweeter then big pea. but if you make it into something savoury like this, i think either pea will do the job well :P

the bright green colors makes it even more delicious & cheery. adding mushroom soup sounds really interesting, although i usually like my mushroom soup warm while green pea chilled ... hmm ... i'm certainly having a difficult dliemma now :P

it's always good to be vegetarian during dinner time.

7/15/2006 01:56:00 AM  
Blogger Audrey Cooks said...

Hah Cath! I am afraid this is a road for the brave and courageous! I for one will definitely drop dead before the day is over.

7/15/2006 04:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Elsie said...

I love the curvature of the bowl that you used to pour the pea soup in. May I know where you got that from?

7/16/2006 01:19:00 AM  
Blogger Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Yes, food (life also) is very expensive in Switzerland. Things like meat, cheese, fish or regional/traditional products are nearly unaffordable depending on the budget you have!...

7/16/2006 07:17:00 AM  
Anonymous keiko said...

What a beautiful soup - I like the addition of the mushroom cream, it must taste even better...

7/16/2006 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger shaz said...

yum. I have a new entry which is also very very green. Matcha ice cream. Take a look!

7/17/2006 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger jenjen said...

The colours are beautiful and so vibrant

7/18/2006 02:31:00 AM  
Anonymous bea at La Tartine Gourmande said...

yum yum. Love love the colours. Will have to try this soup!

7/19/2006 05:55:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

@slurp, smaller peas are sweeter and the reason why I use 'petit pois', and although the soup is savoury in taste, the sweetness of the green peas come thru' very nicely.

@audrey, you should try a 'green' day... it's really not so bad and believe me, you won't faint at all!

@elsie, hi and welcome, the lovely bowl was bought from Robinson's crockery department.. haven't checked for awhile and not quite sure if they still have stock. Have a look and happy shopping :-)

@rosa, oh my, that sounds like 'ouch' and double 'ouch'!

@keiko, yes, the mushroom cream gives the soup an extra earthy punch, lifting the green pea soup out of its ordinariness!

@shaz, saw your matcha ice cream, and am now itching to try it out :-)

@jenjen and @bea, thanks :P

7/19/2006 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Pamela said...

Love the vibrant colour!!

7/21/2006 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger the cook without an oven said...

the soup looks so lovely!! and i can't wait to try out that recipe one of these days!

7/24/2006 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

@pamela , thanks for dropping by!

@lyn, do try and let me know whether you like it :-)

7/26/2006 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous umami said...

Hi cath, i made pea soup two nights ago. With a bit of minced ginger and a scatter of brunoised peppers for colour. Thanks for your suggestion.

7/26/2006 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

@umami, that's great, brunoised peppers sound wonderful and the warm colors must have complemented the soup very artistically!

7/26/2006 07:39:00 PM  

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