Green pea soup. Source: Anna Kharzeeva
This piece is part of the Soviet Diet Cookbook, a blog about a modern Russian girl cooking Soviet food. To read more of the series, click here.
Hot pea soup wasn't what I necessarily was dreaming of for lunch last week when the high here in Tbilisi was forecast to be 37 Celsius (98 Farenheit), but if the soup is delicious and your grandmother tells you to make it, you just do it, don’t you?
Being Russian, I enjoyed the soup anyway – it must be in the blood! Granny tells me her friend’s husband would ask for soup not just at lunch, but also for breakfast – every day! As for my husband, he can be lured into anything with ham, so that’s how I got him to have pea soup in this heat.
Looking back, I remember loving to snack on green peas – I think my brother and I were even more excited by them than by ice cream! (although he might disagree). I just loved cracking the green skin open and one by one getting the peas out – I especially remember doing that on a train going “na yug” (to the South, which meant the sea).
I love the innocence of these childhood food memories, many of which involved breaking some well-known rule or going against a common superstition: the sneaky glass of milk straight from the fridge, when everyone knows you shouldn’t drink cold milk!; the excess of the about-to-overflow-it’s-so-full plate of grechka with milk; the always burnt rice with soy sauce my brother and I would make when mum was at work, telling our less informed friends that it was a “special sauce from China.”
Am I old enough to start talking about the “good old days” and “when I was a child?”
“Peas were our favorite snack when we were kids during the war,” Granny said. “We ate a lot of pea porridge, too. And you know how Russian vegetable patches don’t have a big variety of vegetables? In addition to potatoes, beets, carrots and parsley there were always peas along the fence. In summer, they would be eaten green - fresh or boiled. Then people would collect them, take the skin off, take the peas out and dry them for the winter, and then they were yellow.”
It turns out my great-grandmother, Granny’s mother-in-law, made a famous green pea soup – she would boil green peas with the skin on, then bake the soup and add butter - nothing else.
The recipe in the book suggests adding carrots, onion and potatoes as well. When I recently went to Moscow, Granny was complaining how expensive carrots are and that they all come from Israel. She was eventually lucky to get some from her friend who grows her own.
Going to my local vegetable shop in Tbilisi, where produce is ripe and gives the impression that it’s all local, I saw a big bag of carrots that had the words “Israel” on it. A guy who works for a food NGO here told me that they will even cover Turkish tomatoes with dirt to make them look Georgian – that’s an illusion shattered!
They didn’t have any green peas either – perhaps, it’s too late in the season for them, but I got some yellow peas instead and happily had the soup for lunch and dinner. I toyed with the idea of having it for breakfast, too, but decided against it. After all, I’m not a Soviet man!
The recipe from the Soviet Cook Book, page 113
800g peas; 3 Tbsp butter; 2 Tbsp flour; 4 cups milk
For this soup, you can use either fresh or canned or frozen peas. Thaw the frozen peas before using.
To prepare the milk sauce, lightly fry the oil in butter, dilute with the milk and simmer together 10-15 minutes.
Then rub through a sieve with the peas, dilute with hot water and add salt to taste. Serve with a side of peas and toast.
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