My last blog was extolling the virtues of green foods, the wonderful chlorophyll therein and the health benefits it gives you.
My friends over at Worlds Healthiest Foods send me many interesting articles on weird and wonderful health giving foods, what they contain and why and exactly what you can expect to gain from consuming them. Today, the humble pea is in the spotlight, another green friend from the chlorophyll family..
Regularly pooh-poohed as a standard, and well known veggie, known the western world over as the nemisis of small children (many here in the UK call them devil’s bogies), the pea is low cost, easy to get hold of and easy to store (frozen is best unless you are picking your own).
Recent studies have established that 2mg coumestrol a day, a phytoniutrient that is found in peas (and other legumes), can prevent gastric cancer, so its no mean feat that 1 cup of green peas contains more than 10mg of this good stuff. But this is not where the benefits stop, our little green buddies are thought to be able to prevent type 2 diabetes due to their low glyeciemic index and combination of fibre and protien.
One thing we haven’t mentioned is the starch component of peas, relatively high for a green veggie, and regardless of the health benefits its gives, starch has some great uses in cooking. In my dairy free risotto recipe the starchy rice provides a creamy risotto base, in rich gravy adding starchy potato can enrich and add body, and here, in my pea and basil soup recipe, it creates a smooth and silky emulsion of a soup, again, dairy free.
Dairy Free Creamy Pea and Basil Soup (serves 4, prawns optional)
1 large white onion (about 200g), diced
2 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, chopped into large peices
500g frozen peas
1l good vegetable stock
big handful of basil
Squeeze of lime
16-20 raw peeled prawns (if using prawns)
3 tablespoons olive oil (only 2 if not using prawns)
Add the chilli, garlic, onion and 2 tablespoons of oil to a large pan, season, and very gently sweat. Don’t let anything catch or colour, and keep stirring until the mixture is opaque, aromatic and smelling sweet, this will take 10 minutes or so. Now add the vegetable stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Once the mixture is at a nice nice rolling boil, add the peas and reduce the heat to simmer. This will only need 2 minutes or so cooking before the peas are tender and bringht green.
Remove from the heat and let cool a little (here sometimes I add a couple of ice cubes to bring the heat down- by nature I am impatient but this also serves to preserve the lovely green colour). Once this has cooled a little, either use a hand blender (safer option) or transfer the chunky soup to a food processor (if you do this make sure to leave a hole at the top for steam to get out, or you will have a green kitchen). Right before you blend, add the basil, reserving a few sprigs for decoration and a squeeze of lime. Once you have a creamy smooth consistency, transfer the green emulsion back to the same pan and gently reheat.
If you are using prawns, simply toss them in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and griddle or pan fry until just cooked (if you only have a few slice them in half lenghtways and they look pretty and go further), it won’t take more than a couple of minutes while you reheat the soup. Right before serving, add the prawns, and the remaining torn basil leaves. Viola!
Next stop: I am going to have to try a creamy dairy free dessert…..