This Mary Kettilby recipe produces a classic Potage St. Germain. The name comes from the Paris suburb of St.-Germain-en-Laye, where young peas, a rarity in the early eighteenth century, were sown in boxes for early-spring cultivation. The addition of onions and spinach provide a traditional French touch, making this soup a flavorsome beginning for a spring menu.
Calendulas, also known as pot marigolds, make a lovely garnish for this soup. They were used as both a flavoring and a medicinal herb. According to one source, calendulas could be added to dishes in place of saffron, an affordable alternative in the days before saffron was grown in England. Sprinkle the shredded blossoms over the soup just before serving it. Please note that the calendula/pot marigold should not be confused with the African marigold, which is used as an insect repellent in vegetable gardens.
This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons (2011).
AVAILABLE FROM THE SHOPS
10 cups fresh or frozen peas or petits pois (small, young green peas), divided
6 cups water, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
2 whole cloves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 to 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 pound fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh mint
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Diced toast for garnish (optional)
Shredded fresh calendula blossoms for garnish (optional)
- Put 8 cups of the peas and 4 cups of the water in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the salt, pepper, mace, cloves, thyme, and marjoram, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the peas are very tender.
- Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid in the saucepan. Puree the peas in a food processor or with a food mill. If using a food mill, discard the skins. Press the puree through a sieve into the reserved liquid, stirring to combine thoroughly. Cover and set aside to keep warm.
- Combine the remaining 2 cups of peas with the remaining 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the peas are just tender.
- While the second batch of peas is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the green onions, and sautee for about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and mint and stir together, cooking until the spinach has just wilted. Blend in the flour, and cook for about 1 minute.
- Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid, and stir the peas into the warm soup along with the spinach mixture. Heat until it begins to simmer, adding the reserved pea-cooking liquid "a little at a time" if the soup is too thick. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
- Pour the soup into a tureen, and garnish with diced toast and shredded calendula blossoms, if desired.
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