This in-between March weather is driving me nuts. One day temperatures are soaring to the late teens and I’m getting all excited about spring and dinners outside in the sun. The next day storms set in, wind howls around the house and I am contemplating getting the heating back on.
My fridge and store cupboards reflect an equal state of flux, proof that one moment I want something with the joys of spring, yet next I need a winter warmer. Thankfully this vibrant soup suits all moods. Young pea shoots are combined with peas, basil and peppery watercress, then topped with spicy chorizo.
The secret star ingredient is mellow confit garlic. Confit is traditionally associated with duck, where the meat is slowly poached in oil to preserve it. This method works equally well with garlic cloves. It produces the most versatile delicious little condiment that keeps in the fridge for ages. It can be frozen too.
Throw it into any dish that needs the sweetness of garlic rather than its raw pungency.
Blend it to a smooth paste with butter and parsley to spread onto crusty bread. Mash it up or use the delectable garlicky oil in dips, spreads, dressings and drizzles. Stir through mayonnaise for a quick aioli. Mash it into your guacamole or hummus. Crush them onto pizzas or flatbreads and drizzle with the garlicky oil before sprinkling with basil and chilli flakes. Toss through steamed vegetables, a potato mash or a vegetable mash such as my cauliflower and caramelized onion mash or the savoy cabbage one.
It’s incredibly easy to make: just gently poach the garlic in a good oil for 40 minutes or so, with or without aromatics such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaf or dried chilli. Once you’ve made it, you’ll never look back and will have a jar in the fridge at all times.
Spring Soup with Chorizo and Confit Garlic (serves 4 – GF DF LC RSF)
You can use spicy, smoked or mild chorizo here, fully cured or the cooking variety. Remove the papery skin if you’re using a fully cured one.
Replace the chorizo with bacon or pancetta if you like, or leave it off altogether to make this vegetarian or vegan.
Contrary to the classic Dutch pea soup, this spring version is cooked only briefly to keep all the fresh flavours and colours intact. Don’t cover the soup at any point, and don’t overcook it, else you risk losing the vibrant green colour.
3 good handfuls of pea shoots and watercress or spinach
200 gr peas (frozen is fine)
1 onion or large banana shallot, chopped
a small bunch spring onions, finely sliced
1-2 celery ribs, chopped
1 tsp coconut oil or rapeseed oil
4-5 cloves of confit garlic
100 ml Madeira, vermouth or dry white wine (optional)
600-800 ml vegetable or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
a small bunch of basil, shredded or chopped
100 gr chorizo, chopped (papery skin removed if the cured variety)
A good grating of fresh nutmeg
2-3 tbsp yoghurt, creme fraiche, sour cream or a non-dairy vegan alternative such as almond cream
milk or water to thin out the yoghurt or creme fraiche if needed and if using
extra basil, shredded or chopped or a few extra pea shoots
garlicky oil from the confit garlic and the pan juices from the chorizo (or the bacon)
crusty (GF) bread (optional)
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large casserole or soup pot. Add the onion and sauté for 5 mins or so until translucent. Add the celery and spring onion (keeping a little behind for garnish). Sauté for another few minutes.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and deglaze the pan with the madeira if using, stirring any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
Once boiling, add the peas, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 5 mins, stirring occasionally. Add the pea shoots and watercress (or spinach) and simmer for a few more minutes before adding the basil. Season to taste, add nutmeg and simmer for another minute or so.
Meanwhile heat a small non-stick frying pan on medium-high and fry the chorizo until the juices are flowing and the chorizo has crisped up.
Remove the thyme and bay leaves from the soup. Blend the soup until smooth with a hand blender or in batches in a blender.
Divide the soup over 4 bowls or soup plates. Top with the thinned out yoghurt, the chorizo, more basil or pea shoots and the remaining spring onion. Finish with a drizzle of confit garlic oil and any pan juices from the chorizo.
I served this with little seeded spelt rolls made with the dough I also used for my Dutch Sausage Rolls.
Confit Garlic (makes a small jar plus extra oil – GF DF LC V Vg RSF)
Confit garlic is much sweeter and mellower than raw garlic. So when a recipe calls for 1 clove, you can easily use 2 or 3 of these.
I’m not going to lie: peeling of the garlic cloves is incredibly fiddly. but once done, that’s the hardest work is over and done with.
2-3 garlic bulbs, cloves peeled (or 100 gr ready-peeled ones)
Enough quality olive oil or rapeseed oil to cover (no need to use your most expensive extra virgin for this)
Aromats such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaf or dried chillies (optional)
Place the peeled cloves into a small sauce pan together with any aromats if using. Cover with oil. Heat over medium-heat until a simmer. Then turn the heat right down. Use a heat diffuser if needed to ensure gentle poaching for 40-50 mins. The cloves need to be soft, but remain intact and not falling apart. Don’t let them brown or burn.
If you used any aromatics, you can either discard them, or leave them in to further infuse their flavour while storing.
Transfer to a clean screw-top or clip-top jar, cool and store in the fridge for up to 3 months. Alternatively, divide over silicone ice cube trays and freeze for many more months.
Remember to use a clean spoon every time you remove any garlicky oil or cloves from the jar.