Whenever someone asks me what my ‘most favorite dish in the world’ is, I’m really just baffled by this question. How could anyone have just one favorite dish?! How can you compare, say, sticky Korean ribs, a moist and glistening risotto milanese and braised lentils? Exactly. I just love eating. In general. Which means I basically love every food, cuisine, ingredient, style – as long as it’s well produced and prepared, tasty, and fits my cravings. And cravings (I am not telling you anything new here, I know) can take you to weird places. Such as the place where I am preparing a cold soup that is downright able to save the world (according to other people’s standards or wild imagination): it’s simple, quick, raw, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and – wait for it – really delicious at the same time. You wanna come to my weird place? Follow me!
I do think there is something like a handwriting to my cooking. Anyone who eats regularly at my house (or reads this blog) will notice a certain inclination or even fondness for things like egg yolks, lemon (a lot), salt (even more), making toasted spice rubs, and braising. It’s fair to say that I have a steady repertoire that I like to go back to, regularly, maybe even a bit too often to win a creativity contest. However, I love to revel in culinary eclecticism. One day, I want to prepare and giant beef heart and stew with fistfuls of spices, the next day I want the cleanest seasonal vegetable salad, then just piles of deep fried stuff – or I just clean out the fridge and see what happens. Cooking and eating to me are about versatility and variety. So I try to keep my eyes open in all directions when looking for cooking inspirations.
A few days ago, I spoke to my friend Maria on the phone, and she told me she was going vegan until further notice. I wasn’t surprised much – I’ve known Maria as a (temporarily: fellow) vegetarian for as long as I can remember, and while I went back to eating animals a year ago (the diet – not the book), she just took a step in the opposite direction. Although I do eat meat again, a lot of what I eat or cook is vegetarian, occasionally even vegan, as I realized when checking the ‘vegan’ tag before uploading posts to the blog now and then.
As some of you might now, I’m not a big fan of the whole health- and powerfood gospel. I believe in intuitive eating. If you need it – you will crave it. Even if it’s not stereotypical ‘healthy’ food. What ever it is: it has to be tasty. So when Maria and I chatted about dairy substitutes, my head started to come up with this idea of a soup that would tick all the current health food boxes, but which I would still find delectable and consider something I would do again and again, even when I wouldn’t be looking for a health injection. Also, I wanted something suitable for the already up and running summer: light, refreshing, quick and simple to prepare. I wanted to make a soup, but a chilled one. Plus: I didn’t want any cooking involved in the process.
I love gazpacho. In my version, I like to add a big chunk of watermelon and some sherry vinegar to the blend(er). Also, I put some white bread into the mix for a silky consistency. For this recipe however, I was not in the mood for something tomatoey, bold, acidic. I wanted something elegant, something clean and fresh, more sophisticated than rustic. When I was wandering around the farmer’s market this morning, I saw fresh snap peas. They are in season right now, and bring a delicate flavor and moist creaminess when blended. I took a few handfuls home. An important note: make this recipe with raw peas only (!) if you can get some really really young ones. Otherwise the soup will become a grainy dull mess, and everything I always imagine a ‘green smoothie’ to be. If you can’t get really tender peas, this recipe works just as well with cooked ones, but makes for a different (yet equally pleasing) flavor and texture.
For luxury, I added some coconut cream. As I didn’t have the drive to make my own (which I have seen people doing in various blogs, and which I’m intrigued about doing with almonds in the next days), I went for an organic store-bought coconut cream. One of the classic herbs to go with peas, of course, is fresh mint. And this soup would work just as well with it. But I just love the mysteriousness and licoricy scent of fresh tarragon, and I think it goes so exceptionally well with the flavor of coconut that I grabbed a bunch when heading home. From there on, it’s just a matter of a few other ingredients, about 10 minutes of your time (5 when the peas are already shelled), and 1 good blender. The result is a creamy and distinctively flavored soup that is great as a starter, for a garden party, or even – if you dare – as a sauce with some panfried white fish.
Raw Chilled Pea & Coconut Soup with Tarragon
Active time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (yields 0.5 l)
2 cups fresh, raw, very young sugar peas
150 ml coconut cream (try and get one that’s 100% coconut with no emulsifiers or additives)
100 ml cold water
1 spring onion
1/2 to 1 clove garlic
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
3 cl extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1/2 untreated lemon
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cayenne pepper, sea salt to taste
Put all the ingredients in a good blender and atomize. Chill thoroughly and serve cold.