This recipe comes from an idealistic young French chef, François Bogard, at the Château de Chaumont in the Loire valley. His ingredients are left to grow naturally with only organic fertilizer and a minimum of irrigation, and in his recipes even the water comes from a bottle so he knows the source. There’s nothing Spartan, however, about his use of cream! Sorrel or watercress can be substituted for nettles, and the soup can be served hot or cold.

Serves 6

  • 140g/5oz baby spinach
  • 140g/5oz arugula
  • 110g/4oz young stinging nettles
  • medium bunch of flat leaf parsley (about 60g/2oz)
  • medium bunch of peppermint or spearmint (about 60g/2oz)
  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • 2 scallions, chopped with some of the green tops
  • 1 liter/1¾ pints/1 quart Vittel or other still mineral water
  • 110g/4oz/¾ cup shelled fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 liter/1¾ pints/1 quart heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • salt and pepper
  • 70g/2½oz/½ cup toasted sunflower seeds

soup pot or medium saucepan

1. Pull leaves from the greens and herbs, discarding the stems (wear rubber gloves when handling the nettles). Wash them and drain in a colander. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the spinach, arugula, nettles and parsley and bring just back to a boil. Drain, rinse the greens with cold water and leave to drain thoroughly. Chop the peppermint leaves, reserving 6-8 sprigs for decoration.

2.  Wipe out the pot and melt the butter in it, then add the scallions and sauté until soft. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Add the peas and boil them until tender, 5-7 minutes or longer if your peas are a bit elderly. Transfer them to a bowl of cold water with a draining spoon. Add the cream to the cooking liquid and bring it just to a boil. Stir in the drained greens.

3.  Purée the soup in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Bring it just back to a boil and add the drained peas, chopped peppermint, celery salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve the soup hot or chilled (if chilled it will need more seasoning), sprinkled with toasted sunflower seeds and topped with a peppermint sprig.

Shortcut: Use only two of the five greens, increasing quantities so the total weight is the same.

Getting Ahead: After the soup has been puréed, it can be kept a day in the refrigerator, or frozen for a month. To finish it, bring it to a boil, add the peas and other ingredients and continue as directed.

In the Glass: A white wine such as a Riesling or dry Chenin Blanc.

On the Side: Warm slices of toasted Cheese Brioche.

From Good Food No Fuss by Anne Willan, 2003
Photo CREDIT: Simon Wheeler