St. Paddy’s Soup

It’s almost always spring in Ireland. Soft rains green the fields, palm trees grow in Ballycotton and February 1st, St. Brigid’s Day, is spring’s unofficial first day. Daffodils bloom in January and brighten country lanes through March. Winter’s last gray snow may still greet us in the American Midwest on St. Patrick’s Day, but we’ll be thinking of Ireland and everything green.

No doubt you’ll still find some sodden boiled dinners on the Emerald Isle today, but cooking for the most part has met higher European expectations. Travel in Ireland can mean dining as exquisitely as in France, and everyone speaks English. In many ways the food is even better than in France, with Irish emphasis on freshness, year-round availability of garden-to-table produce, and the nearness of both the sea and farmland.

A simple way to bring the green to your March 17th table is with pea and coriander soup. You’ll need a package of frozen peas, some fresh cilantro and about 15 minutes in the kitchen to taste the goodness of today’s Irish cottage fare.

Pea and Coriander Soup

1 oz. (2 tablespoons) butter

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion (6 oz.)

1 clove garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon chopped green chili (optional)

handful finely chopped coriander* stems

16 fl. oz. (2 cups) chicken stock

8 fl. oz. (1 cup) water

pinch each of salt and sugar

1 lb. (3 cups) frozen peas

handful chopped coriander leaves

2–4 tablespoons cream optional

*Coriander leaves, greens from the coriander seed plant are called both Chinese parsley and, commonly, cilantro in the U.S.

In a medium pot melt the butter, sweat the onion, garlic, chili and coriander stems until soft and translucent. Add the stock, water, salt and sugar; Cover and gently boil 5 minutes.

Add the peas, return to the gentle boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add the chopped coriander leaves. Cool a few minutes and puree the soup in a blender or use an immersion blender. Sieve the soup to remove pea hulls and enrich with cream for a more refined soup. Serves 4 as first course.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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