Pea and Lovage Soup, Scallops and Bacon
Updated: Oct 30, 2021
I assume that all the vegetables within the omelette are fresh? ... Including the peas? ...
I assure you they were absolutely fresh when they were frozen.
Fawlty Towers ["The Hotel Inspectors"] (1975)
This is another recipe I posted on my Instagram page for "Great British Pea Week" and if I remember rightly it was one I was inspired to come up with because of that particular occasion. I do enjoy finding opportunities to celebrate our seasonal native produce in all their forms and giving them a seasonal native fishy spin. As much as it can be a challenge it's also a great motivator.
The response to said challenge transpired to become an alchemy of a two or three recipes I either was, or soon became, aware of. The basis of the idea was to create a soup harnessing the well-acknowledged successful trinity of peas, scallops and salty pork.
The soup base I founded this dish on was "Fresh pea & lovage soup" which came from James Martin and was originally published in the "BBC Good Food" magazine in June 2008. Had I seen it at the time (which I rather suspect I did!) I would almost certainly have overlooked it (which I'm rather confident I did!), not having a clue at the time what lovage was or where you could get it. Roll forward some 10+ years and I grow it on my balcony, now having few clues what to do with it, despite having discovered how much I love its celery-like notes. On that particular celery note I should recommend its use in a Moules Marinières as I posted in "Moules Marinières (with Lovage)", but also it's fantastic in any bean salad that you might, for example, serve at a barbecue.
In searching for inspiration as to how to compose the dish I had in mind I happened upon a recipe in the "Scottish Herald", "Garden pea soup with Isle of Mull scallops and bacon", contributed by Neil Forbes at Cafe St Honoré. This more or less made the pathway clear as it was just a matter of substituting Martin's pea and lovage soup into Forbes's dish. Incidentally, both Martin and Forbes suggest that their respective pea soups can be served hot or cold. I, for one, would enjoy it both ways, but if scallops and bacon are to be featured in the mix, I'd personally choose hot every time.
At the time of developing this recipe, I had recently bought some bacon from Grasmere Farm at High Street Kensington Farmers' Market and I was rewarded in my optimism that this would be top drawer. Add to that fresh peas in their pods from Perry Court Farm, and diver-caught scallops from Dorset Fish, both at South Kensington Farmers' Market, and one thing that was certain was that it wasn't the ingredients that were going to let this recipe down!
Going back to the lovage. I'd wish to encourage that this dish be tried even in the absence of lovage - a pea soup is delicious when scented with mint, which is abundantly available. But I'd also like to suggest that, given my conviction over the celery-like qualities in the flavour of lovage, celery leaves (in judicious quantities) would make a superb alternative. All that being said, I don't mind proudly informing that the borage flower in the photo of this recipe is the first I have ever grown!
Now, despite being an incredibly simple recipe, I've gone to town a bit with this one. You do not need to have a slit-open pea pod in your soup. Nor is it essential to have a scallop shell lying by your plate. But then, of course, where would your diners discard their inessential pea pod? Equally you don't have to have a few whole peas floating around, nor is it imperative that a borage flower lurks among.
By the same token, or perhaps more importantly, this dish can very well be made with frozen peas - a product of which I am a big fan. Whilst I'm confident I've made pea soup from frozen peas in the past, that past is certainly not a recent one. So I defer to the ratios offered by Chef Martin, which is that instead of the 400-500g fresh peas in the pod I have used in this recipe, 150-180g of podded peas (fresh or frozen) will achieve the same result.
One thing I've added to the soup recipe is the use of the pods for amplifying the pea flavour of the soup to create a "pea stock". This isn't an essential step but it strikes me as a simple enough one to make the most of the parts of the vegetable we would otherwise discard. On a similar note I would urge caution in the amount of garlic used. It would be fantastic if wild garlic were available at the same time as fresh peas because the wild garlic would offer its milder garlic flavour at the same time as accentuating the greenness of the soup. But that is perhaps a dream too far. Instead, whilst I think garlic is an essential contributor to the overall flavour of the dish, I would rather omit it than include too much.
It will come as scant surprise that I am going to advocate the use of dry-cured bacon obtained from as close to the producer as is possible if a really pleasing, crispy result is the ambition. Either way, the bacon for this recipe can be simply grilled or pan-fried and left to drain on kitchen paper before being cut into the preferred chunk-size. However to get really crispy bacon there's a technique I've seen used many, many times and I describe it in the recipe steps to follow. Whatever approach is taken the bacon can be prepared in advance.
This dish, I decided, is one in which I was happy to include the corals of the scallops along with the white muscle. If shucking the scallops yourself it is a bit of a fiddle to get the rather unappetising entrails away from the edible parts of the scallop without separating the coral from the muscle, but a fishmonger will happily do this for you.
With all of the above having been said, if you have a tub of scallop meat, frozen peas and some top-notch bacon then it's perfectly possible to make this dish without much effort and it will be perfectly fresh-tasting, delicious and resonant of summer. And everything in the recipe can simply be multiplied up if catering for larger numbers.
Pea and Lovage Soup, Scallops and Bacon
Ingredients (Serves 2)
400-500g peas in their pods (or 150-180g podded or frozen peas, see recipe intro)
20g unsalted butter
40-50g spring onions, chopped
¼ garlic clove, chopped
250ml vegetable stock (add 50ml if not making the pea stock, see recipe intro)
20g crème fraiche
2 sprigs of lovage, leaves only (about 20 leaves or 5g), or alternative (see recipe intro)
2-3 rashers of dry-cured (smoked if preferred) streaky bacon
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
4-6 scallops, removed from the shell, corals intact or discarded, as preferred
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shell the peas except perhaps for a couple of ones that you might want to use in the presentation of the dish, but keep the pods aside if wanting to make the pea stock.
To make the pea stock bring the vegetable stock and 250ml water to the boil then add as many of the pea pods as can be submerged in the liquid (about three-quarters of them) and, once back at a boil, reduce the heat a little and simmer for 15 mins. Drain the contents of the pan through a sieve laid over a bowl, return the liquid to the pan and reduce to 300ml. If not making the pea stock simply add a further 50ml vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Either way, set the stock aside.
In a clean pan, melt the butter then sweat the spring onion and garlic gently for 5 mins with the lid of the pan on. Pour in the vegetable stock or pea stock and, once up to the boil, add the shelled peas and any reserved whole pods. Simmer for 2-3 mins until the peas are tender. If wishing to use a few peas and whole pods for decoration, use a slotted spoon to remove the whole pods plus a tablespoon or so of the peas per serving. Refresh these under cold running water, drain and set aside.
Add the crème fraiche and lovage (or alternative - see recipe intro) leaves to the soup then blitz with a stick blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. The soup can now be chilled for use at a later stage, whether to be served cold on its own (in which case the remaining steps are unnecessary) or to be reheated and served hot with the scallops and bacon.
The bacon can be simply grilled or pan-fried and dried on kitchen paper. However, for a super-crispy result, first pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper and lay the bacon slices on top, covering with another sheet of greaseproof paper. Put another baking tray on top to keep everything flat (a weight can be used on top if necessary) and place in the oven for about 15-20 mins, checking occasionally until the bacon has crisped up. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with kitchen paper and, once cooled, if not using immediately store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a couple of days.
To finish the dish, warm the pea soup in a saucepan and the bacon slices in the oven. Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan, season the scallops with salt and fry over a medium-high heat for 1 minute on the first side, turn over and fry for just 30 seconds more. Transfer to a warm plate, season with a little freshly ground black pepper, and leave to rest for a minute or so.
Divide the scallops between two soup bowls and pour the soup around. Break the bacon slices into small pieces and arrange these across the soup. Sprinkle the reserved peas into bowls and decorate with a whole pea pod, if liked.
"Fresh pea & lovage soup", bbcgoodfood.com, accessed 9 August 2021
"Moules Marinières (with Lovage)", Bute Street Seafoodie
"Recipe of the Day: Garden pea soup with Isle of Mull scallops and bacon by Neil Forbes at Cafe St Honoré", heraldscotland.com, accessed 9 August 2021
Grasmere Farm, website accessed 9 August 2021
Perry Court Farm, website accessed 9 August 2021
Dorset Fish, website accessed 9 August 2021