A grim Thursday afternoon in January. Rain was coughing at the windows in that forceful, repetitive way that seems to give it an agenda of its own, and the bus windows were fogged up. You got the feeling that if you inhaled too deeply, the germs of a million waxing and waning flu viruses would come ebbing down your throat, seizing up your muscles and snuffing out your determination for a healthy new year. It was getting dark outside. Checking your watch, you realised with a small, sad eye-roll that it had only just gone 3.30pm.
Know that feeling? Yeah, I had that. The back-to-school back-to-work feeling that always arrives in January. Most people are fine with going back to work or back to school, but that feeling arrives anyway. You’re craving warmth, light, and – even though you might not realise it – colour. Why do you think we all race for the fresh produce aisle as soon as the shops open again at the beginning of the year? We’re craving brightness – fresh leafy greens, the pinched red of a fresh chilli, the suave deep purple of a really good aubergine, the friendly glow of a ripe clementine.
It was in that mindset that I thought up a recipe for exactly what I wanted. I wanted greenness, the tang of something salty, and maybe a little boot of chilli, just to perk up the afternoon. The thinking of the recipe took more time than the recipe itself, as you’ll see below.
Feel green; fill yourself up with good things, and have a bright new year.
Pea and feta soup with chilli salt
300g frozen peas
Half an onion, chopped
A small clove of garlic, chopped
A teaspoon of butter, or olive oil
500ml hot vegetable stock
25-30g feta cheese
Chilli salt – I use Cornish Sea Salt’s version, it’s gorgeous
A drizzle of oil to finish – I used rapeseed
To serve – fresh bread and garlic butter (optional)
In a medium saucepan, gently sauté the onion and garlic in the oil or butter until soft and translucent – take care not to burn or brown them too much.
Add the peas to the pan and stir vigorously.
Pour in the stock, and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
Crumble in the feta, stir gently to incorporate, then remove the pan from the heat.
Use a stick blender or smoothie maker to blitz the soup until smooth.
Return to the heat for a minute or two, then ladle into bowls.
Sprinkle with chilli salt to taste, and add a teeny drizzle of oil to finish, if you like.