B’s lettuce, mint and pea soup

When I first started growing things, I never had much luck with lettuces – they either got totally slugandsnailed or I ended up with too many and got sick of the sight of them. My friend B made me this soup several years ago, and together with a Chinese recipe for braised lettuce with oyster sauce, I am no longer put off by the thought of a glut – ‘though I’m still struggling with the slugs.
This is the essence of summer in a bowl, for those days when we have a hot spell and even if you water twice a day, all the lettuces threaten to bolt and turn bitter overnight or, as has just happened down at the community garden, a heavy summer storm has beaten them up really badly. It’s not unlike petit pois à la française as a puréed soup, but the mint gives it an extra zing.
You could of course, use your own homegrown peas – I usually only grow mangetout, so I use frozen peas, which also need less cooking.

Ingredients – to make 1 ½ – 2 litres
The proportions can be pretty flexible, but if you’re using an iceburg lettuce, it’s probably a good idea to be more generous with the peas and mint, ‘cos they can be a bit bitter.
If you are using homegrown peas, then after you’ve shucked them, boil the pods in the water for about 10 minutes for more flavour in your stock. Strain and use.

1 onion, or 3 – 4 spring onions, finely chopped.
2 generous handfuls of frozen peas/petit pois – or homegrown, as young as possible.
Lettuce, finely shredded – (2 little gem, or ½ an iceberg, or 1 cos or equivalent amount)
2 teaspoons sunflower oil
1.5 litres water
Pinch of salt or to taste
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh mint tips

Over a low heat, sweat the onion with the salt and oil, until softened. Add the lettuce and wilt for a minute or two, add water, bring to the boil and add the peas. Cook until tender, but still bright green. Turn off the heat, add mint leaves, and whiz or put through a mouli. Taste for seasoning and serve.


satay carrot slaw

ok, still chasing my own tail – last week friday night, couldn’t be bothered to cook and I had that found iceburg and too many carrots all staring at me accusingly – the following almost doesn’t count as a recipe, it is that simple. It’s a great way to get kids to chomp through copious amounts of veg – or indeed any of your dearly beloved who think that veg is spelt ‘forgetables’…and, if you squeeze the carrots of excess juice, it also makes a good sandwich filling for brown bread.

Ingredients per person
3-4 medium carrots, grated
1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon Thai style sweet chilli sauce
adjust amount of both of these to your personal taste

In a bowl, combine by hand 😉 yes, that’s it.

Serve with lettuce leaves – place a spoonful in the middle of a leaf and roll up like a cigar.

To squeeze the carrots before you combine everything together, sprinkle over a mean (1 finger and 1 thumb) pinch of salt and place in the middle of a clean cloth – I have an old T shirt I cut up for veg squeezing, as carrot and spinach can stain your best tea towel 😦 – pull all the corners up together and twist over a bowl, so you get a small glass of fresh carrot juice into the bargain. Do make sure whatever cloth you use hasn’t been washed in over perfumed laundry product, as it might taint the carrots and will certainly ruin the juice. It is worth doing this if you’re using it for sandwiches as the salt in the chilli sauce will otherwise draw out excess juice and make your bread pappy.

I use the budget bargain basement kind of peanut butter from the supermarket – it’s about half the price, 65p a jar – and while it does contain a little sugar and vegetable oil, this means you can spread it more easily and consequently use less. It is also much easier to mix with other ingredients as in this recipe.

When I ate this I actually added some grated Asian pears into the mix, which were super juicy, but this was more because they weren’t really nice enough to eat straight – no flavour – than any other reason. In the past, however, I have added grated sour (unripe) mango, and that worked really well.