Pea Soup

My mother had a full time job, four kids and a pressure cooker which sound like a winning combination except that when you come home from a full time job and four kids enter your cellular structure and you haven’t had enough sleep since you gave birth, it is a challenge to remember that in the directions for the pressure cooker it says something like “Never use for pea soup.”  And then in finer, meaner print:  “Your walls and your ceiling will remind you of the pea soup, forever.”  I remember three separate incidents of our walls wearing pea soup, and it has taken me all these years to be brave enough to even smell pea soup again.  The thing is, you don’t need a pressure cooker.  You don’t even have to soak dried split peas, and they’ll be done without stirring, in about 45 minutes.  Buy the bag.  Rinse the peas, and put them together with a big pot of water.  Tie up a bundle of one thyme sprig (you should be able to find thyme in the salad section in little plastic packs), a bay leaf, a parsley sprig, and an inside tiny stalk of celery with a piece of string.  If you have no string, just dump them in the pot.  Add a spill of olive oil, a good pinch of salt, a garlic clove (uncut) and a quarter of an onion or a whole shallot.  Bring to a simmer, and let it go over a low heat with the lid ajar, until the peas are soft and tender.   Adjust the salt.  Meanwhile in a frying pan, add 3 leeks.  Don’t be afraid of the leeks.  Buy them–that’s the hardest part.  When you get them home, take knife, and just whittle away at each one, as if they were a stick that you were making come to a point.  Your goal is to remove the tough green parts.  If it’s easier just to whack the tough green parts off with a single slice, do that.  Some green is fine, it’s just that the thick green stuff never really gets tender when you cook it.  Now cut the root part off, which are the wiggly bits at the bottom.  Slice each leek lengthwise down the middle so that you can open it up–you need to get the sand out.  Now just fill a bowl with cold water and let them soak in there.  The sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Take them out, pat them off and slice thinly.  Saute these in a little butter with another thyme sprig and a few sprigs of parsley until tender.  If you are feeling extravagant, add some small chunks of Canadian bacon or pancetta.  Peel two fist sized potatoes and dice into small pieces.  Stir those around with the leeks and season with salt and a grind of pepper.  Add a few ladlefuls of the cooking liquid from the peas, and the peas as well.  (lift them from the liquid with a slotted spoon so that you can reserve the cooking liquid)  Simmer until the potatoes are tender, adding more liquid from the peas, as you need it.  You are not looking for this to be the kind of soup you can stand a spoon in.  Serve with buttery croutons (butter good bread and broil, then cut into squares) and a lovely goat cheese or parmesan.  Ferd ate this. And I am going to eat it again for lunch.

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