Monday, November 21, 2011

Pea and Pancetta Soup

Oddly enough, the term 'comfort food' is not something I ever grew up hearing in France. I think it's because so much of the food really is, inherently, comfort food that it would make for quite a redundant label. From creamy potato puree, to seared duck breast, pot au feu (beef stew), salade de chevre chaud (frisee lettuce topped with melted goat cheese on crusty bread) to even just a cheese platter with a good baguette and cornichons (small French pickles) - there are very little foods in France that don't make you feel good inside. Our conception of food in France is something I have rarely seen elsewhere, if I have to be perfectly honest. The knowledge of food of even those who don't like to cook always strikes me a little when I make my way back home.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of having lunch with cookbook author Maria Speck, whose book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals is an absolute gem. Also from Europe, Maria has a real passion for food, and especially for whole grains cooked up in delicious ways. We got to talking about our North American food experiences and Maria told me about some of the questions she sometimes receives about food in general (like "does it matter if I use a brown or white egg in this recipe?"). I got to thinking, and I couldn't picture anyone in France really asking such a question. All presumptuous comments aside, I think there is a sort of purity in a lot of European countries when it comes to food. Don't get me wrong, France does have its woes with unhealthy diets, obsessive eating habits and so on but in most places, most people just have a pretty healthy attitude towards real food. I never grew up with the notion that full-fat cream was to be avoided or that olive oil was fatty. I did grow up with my the notion of the unhealthiness of fast food, ice cream and sweets but I certainly did not have it ingrained in me that certain food should be completely avoided.

It's this sort of purity towards food that I strive for with this blog - it's all about eating a little of everything, not all the time, but within reason. It's about tasting all foods, and going back to real food, whenever possible. I didn't even really know what the word 'processed' meant moving here, and I wish it wasn't a word we had to use so often in our food vocabulary in North America. These are the foods that our making our relationship with so unhealthy, along with the non-fat, half-fat labels we associate with so many products at the grocery store. I strive to move towards a more wholesome food culture where there is less we refuse ourselves - as long as it's real, authentic, mostly homemade goodness. What do you think?

Now, for the recipe du jour!

Pea and Pancetta Soup
Serves 4

1/4 cup of finely diced pancetta 

1/3 cup of finely diced onions 
3 garlic cloves, finely minced 
4 cups of frozen peas 
1/4 tsp of dried oregano 
1-1/2 to 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock 
1/4 cup of heavy creamFresh mint, to garnish

Add the pancetta to a saucepan on medium heat. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the pancetta is cooked through and crispy. Remove the pancetta and reserve.

 Add the onions, garlic and oregano to the saucepan, with a good drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are transculent, for 4-5 minutes. Add the frozen peas and stir.

Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook on a low simmer for 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Fold in the cream. Serve and top with the reserved pancetta and fresh mint leaves.

For more winter food ideas, take a look at my article on Style at Home


Anonymous said...

That's just how I feel about food, and even more so over the last 10 years that I have lived in France. Very nice simple pea soup with pancetta.

Isabell said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly - I think that as a culture, we've gotten so obsessed with what's "healthy" and eliminating "unhealthy" foods from our diets that we've lost sight of the fact that food should taste good, first and foremost. I like to think that as long as I eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables and delicious flavours, the rest will take care of itself.
Your soup looks perfect, BTW. Pancetta and peas are always such a great pairing... and fresh oregano sounds like the perfect herb to go along.

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