Pea and mint soup, from The Great Dixter Cookbook

The Phaidon Nutri Blast: Pea and Mint Soup

Getting livid with the lockdown? Then give yourself a little meal-time lift with this easy, healthy, simple recipe

Cooking quick, nutritous, healthy meals isn’t the easiest thing to do during the normal run of things, and yet it’s especially important right now when many of us are stuck at home, trying hard to keep our spirits up and our immune systems firing.

Fortunately, there are plenty of simple, easy-to-make, thoroughly healthy dishes in our back catalogue. Take this gem, from The Great Dixter Cookbook by that esteemed country house’s vegetable gardener and chef, Aaron Bertelsen.

“The mint gives this soup a wonderfully fresh taste, and it makes a perfect lunch with some bread and cheese on the side,” Bertelsen explains in the dish’s preamble. “Perry, the estate manager at Great Dixter, once accused me of being lazy for adding whole peas, pods and all, to the pot, but I feel they give the soup more body and intensify the flavour.”

Bertelsen chills his soup at the end of the recipe, but you can serve yours warm if it better suits your current climate. Here’s what you’ll need to make it: 50 g/2 oz (½ stick) of butter; an onion, chopped; 1 litre/1¾ pints (4 cups) of vegetable or chicken stock (broth); 550 g/1¼ lb (4 cups) of shelled fresh peas or thawed frozen peas; 300 g/11 oz (2 cups) of unpodded peas; a handful each of flat-leaf parsley and mint leaves; 5 tablespoons of crème fraîche or sour cream; 2 tablespoons of double (heavy) cream; salt and pepper; a handful mixed fresh herbs, chopped, to garnish.


Aaron Bertelsen at Great Dixter
Aaron Bertelsen at Great Dixter

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pan over medium heat, add the onion and cook for five minutes, stirring, until it has softened. Pour in half the stock (broth) and bring to a boil. 

Add the peas, shelled and unpodded, reduce the heat and simmer gently until tender (no more than 3 minutes for fresh peas, and about 2 minutes for frozen). Remove from the heat, add the parsley, mint and remaining stock. Transfer the mixture to a blender and purée the soup until as smooth as possible (if you like a very smooth soup, you might also want to strain it through a fine-mesh sieve). Season with salt and pepper and let cool, then refrigerate until really cold. When you are ready to serve, mix the crème fraîche and double (heavy) cream together in a small bowl. Serve the chilled soup topped with a spoonful of the cream mixture and sprinkled with the chopped herbs.


The Great Dixter Cookbook
The Great Dixter Cookbook

For a more detailed version of this recipe, as well as much more besides, order a copy of The Great Dixter Cookbook here. It's filled with Aaron Bertelsen's seasonal recipes and expert planting guides from Great Dixter, Christopher Lloyd's quintessential English country garden.