At dinner last week at the Black Dog in Bayfield, the Culinary Enthusiast ordered the featured soup, a bowl of lovely pale green and fragrant cream of fresh pea soup. Of course I staked my claim to a taste (or several) and immediately vowed that I’d make my own version as a celebration of fresh, local Canadian food.
When we think of Canadian food, our mind may turn to that which is uniquely Canadian, like maple syrup, back bacon, Nanaimo bars, poutine and Nova Scotia Hodge Podge (check out this recipe by the inimitable Movita Beaucoup). But really, Canadian food includes everything that is grown or produced here in this great and bountiful country, like the peas that I used to make this soup.
Food Day Canada will be held on August 2 this year. It’s a celebration of Canadian farmers, fishers, chefs and home cooks. It’s a day to enjoy Canadian food, whether the loftiest cuisine in a restaurant or a simple home-cooked meal or dinner grilled over the coals at your camp site.
One celebration of Food Day Canada will be Around the Canadian Table, in Ontario’s beautiful Niagara area. This event will showcase the best of local, seasonal food and wine while raising funds to support students in culinary, hospitality, brewmaster and winery programs at Niagara College, thus ensuring a bright future for Canadian cuisine.
Yesterday I was in luck; the Juicy-Fruit Farm Market near the cottage we rent had freshly-picked shelling peas. I was inclined toward the romantic notion of using the peas while the pods still had the morning dew on them, but we had company all day and the farm’s patch wouldn’t be ready for picking again until Friday. So, practicality won out. I bought two baskets of peas in the pod and stored them in the fridge. The cold slows the conversion of their sugar into starch, so the peas still tasted fresh and sweet today.
Sitting on the deck overlooking Lake Huron this morning, the meditative process of shelling the peas reminded me of Mom, my brother and me sitting at the picnic table on the farm, under the shade of the big maple trees, shelling colanders full of peas just picked from our big vegetable garden. In my memory, those summer days were lazy, but they were probably anything but for my mother who helped Dad run the farm, tended a big garden and preserved its bounty, sewed our clothes and made three meals a day with dinnertime dessert a requirement. I’m lucky to buy my peas ready-picked at the market up the road and turn them into soup during a relaxing vacation that doesn’t demand anything more taxing of me.
I kept this soup simple so the flavour of the peas would shine through. For background flavour I used onion, and instead of garlic, garlic scapes both to celebrate their seasonal availability and encourage the green hue. My original plan was to use fresh mint as a flavouring, but none was available when I did my grocery shopping. Instead, I used a bit of dill and was pleased with the outcome.
I’ve made many a pot of split pea soup, but this is the first time I’ve used fresh peas. What took me so long? The delicate green colour is pleasing to the eye, and oh, the flavour of fresh peas is both uplifting and soothing.
DISCLAIMER: By referring to Food Day Canada and Around the Canadian Table (ACT) in this post, I am eligible to win two tickets (total value $400) to attend Around the Canadian Table on August 2. The winner will selected by random draw by an ACT representative. This opportunity was made available to me as a member of Food Bloggers of Canada.
Cream of Fresh Pea Soup
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup finely diced cooking onion (about 1/2 large onion)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped garlic scapes
- 1-3/4 to 2 cups shelled fresh peas
- 900 ml vegetable stock (preferably low sodium)
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp minced dill
- salt to taste, if required
- 1 cup milk (I used rice milk, but you could use regular dairy)
Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat, then add the onion and garlic scales. Stirring occasionally, cook for about five minutes, until the onion is translucent. Don’t let the vegetables brown.
Tumble the peas into the pot and stir well. Pour in the vegetable stock, add the pepper and bring the covered pot to a boil. Turn the heat the to lowest setting, add the dill and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the peas are tender.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings and then stir in the milk. If you’d like to add some extra flair (as if a bowl of fresh pea goodness weren’t enough), garnish with a sprig of dill.