Fresh mint is perhaps one of my favourite herbs. In the kitchen, I love its relatively strong, sweet and refreshing flavour that makes it incredibly versatile, and an ingredient that I use in drinks, as well as savoury dishes and desserts. In the garden, its appeal comes from the fact that it’s very easy to grow, withstanding a wide range of conditions, and seemingly tolerant of even the least-skilled and most neglectful of gardeners (i.e. me).
I enjoy mint with everything from roast lamb (I consider fresh mint sauce to be an absolutely vital accompaniment), to a classic mojito (where it’s muddled with lime juice and rum to create the classic Cuban drink).
Pea and mint is another fabulous combination – one of those pairings that seem to have been made to go together – and there is no shortage of recipes which make the most of it. This recipe is one of those, and like many others it not only has a delicious flavour, but also a beautiful, fresh and vibrant colour.
It really is the perfect soup for Spring, especially if you’re able to use fresh peas (although it’s still perfectly delicious with frozen ones, which is what I used here). It’s light and refreshing as well as warming and comforting. Of course there are also plenty of recipes for a chilled version for when the weather gets sunnier and hotter, and although I’m not a big fan of ‘cold’ soup I think it’ll be worth making an exception and exploring this as an option later in the year.
I also really enjoy the fennel in this recipe, which enhances the fresh and sweet taste of the peas and mint, but also adds a mild, subtle hint of aniseed to the overall flavour, creating a slightly more earthy soup. To serve, you can add a swirl of cream or crème fraiche if you feel like it, although I prefer to keep things simple (and light) with just a squeeze of lemon juice and a few fresh mint leaves and fennel fronds.
Recipe: Pea, Fennel and Mint Soup
450g / 1lb fennel, tough outer layers peeled away and the remainder chopped
500g / 1lb 2oz) peas, fresh or frozen
900ml vegetable stock
3 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper
Juice of ½ a lemon
A few mint and fennel leaves, roughly chopped
Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan and add the fennel. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the fennel has started to sweat. Add the peas and stock, increase the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat again, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the chopped mint and simmer for a further minute.
Using a hand-held mixer or food processor blend the mixture until it’s smooth.
Season to taste, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and serve garnished with mint leaves and fennel fronds.