Like many men of an era in Ireland, my grandfather learned to cook out of necessity, when my grandmother died. We lived three houses away from him and when we were young, and played out in the street, the smell of his cooking would draw us to his house for a visit. The food I remember most clearly, for he died when I was young, were his Ulster Fries and his pea soup.
I remember the way he cooked. Being young, everything always seemed to take forever. His movements were painstakingly slow, methodical, ritualistic. Sausages, sometimes black pudding and bacon were fried in a big, battered frying pan over a medium gas flame. A couple of slices of fried bread and when everything was almost ready, he’d shuffle everything to make room for an egg which he cracked on the edge of the frying pan and watched as it spat and bubbled, becoming glistening, opaque white, soft golden yellow yolk and crispy bottom.
I don’t remember ever seeing him make pea soup. He must have made it early in the morning, because I would see the dried peas soaking on the counter the day before. I would always arrive when it was ready to be ladled into old fashioned, shallow soup bowls, creamy white with a scalloped edge, making the soup green as grass. It would steam and he would have finished one serving by the time I was able to take a couple of mouthfuls. It was thick, coarse in texture and flecked with stringy mouthfuls of ham he used to add flavour. It was always too hot, but it was also always too delicious to try and wait until it cooled enough to eat without any pain.
Today, I don’t soak dried peas the day before. I have time, but I don’t have patience. Always hungry when I start to cook, dinner or lunch has to be ready before I start to nibble at anything within reach and lose my appetite by the time a meal is ready. I make this soup in summer, when fresh peas are plentiful and quick to cook. I go heavy in with the mint. The smell of it is summer fresh.
INGREDIENTS 500g fresh peas, podded (or 200g of frozen)
2 spring onions, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 small potato, quartered and then sliced thinly
A handful of mint
300ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
In a pot, heat the olive oil gently and add the garlic, spring onion and potato and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the vegetable stock and increase the heat to a fast simmer.
Once the potato has softened, add the peas and cook until tender.
Add the mint and blitz to your preferred consistency with a hand blender.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with sliced spring onion and a nasturtium flower.