OK, OK, so I know what you're thinking. Chilled cream of snap pea soup? Really? Creamed cold pea soup with Marmite? Has Soupalooza gone mad?
Well, how about we give it a French name? Mangetout soupe sounds much better, doesn't? (Try it with a French accent … go on!)
Yes, it is a little unorthodox -- well, weird, actually -- but, honestly, this soup really is worth trying. Mange tout (with a space) is French for "eat all," but mangetout (no space) translates to sugar snap peas.
Chilled snap pea soup is a great way to jump start the spring veggie season. Sweet, crunchy, great raw or cooked, sugar snap peas are readily available this time of year. While it is very tempting to consume the whole bag raw or to stir fry snap peas (I like them sauteed with Meyer lemon and mint), this soup is great for a luncheon or first course.
The recipe comes from the now-closed Cranks Restaurant in London, courtesy of my friends Bob and Catriona, who also hail from across the pond. When it opened in 1961 Cranks was one of the first vegetarian restaurants and specialized in soups, salads and fresh foods. This was a strange concept back then and many credit the restaurant with the spread of vegetarianism among normal folk. (Note: They have awesome cookbooks including the 20th anniversary release of "The Cranks Recipe Book: The Vegetarian Classics" coming out in July.)
If snap peas aren't your favorite, you can try this recipe with carrots instead, another Crank's favorite. Substitute one pound of carrots for the snap peas and add ½ teaspoon each of dried sage and thyme. You can also skip the milk and just add 1¼ cups more vegetable stock if you want your soup to be dairy free.
In true English fashion, the recipe calls for Marmite. If you made the green bean soup featured in Soupalooza last January, then you probably still have a jar of the yeasty sludge in the fridge. The paste adds kick to the soup. Just make sure you add it slowly because a little goes a long way. (If you can't find it in your usual grocery store, it is available in the British food aisle at local Meier stores.) If you really don't want to deal with it, just salt and pepper to taste.
Marmite or not, I really think you will mange tout the mangetout.
• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation, and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com.