Sunday, 17 May 2015

Crème Ninon, the posher pea soup

Life has been one continuous gourmet and Champagne fuelled fiesta of late so why stop now? Today's recipe is for Crème Ninon, one of French classics and a fine example of how justa  little tweak can elevate your average pea soup to a whole new league. A little cream, a dash of Champagne... and hey presto - you've got yourself a festive starter perfect for spring and summer! For added festiveness sprinkle the dishes with some edible flowers.

The soup was named after an actual person, who, despite being French, didn't really touch alcohol at all. A prominent figure of 17th century France, Anne de Lenclos got two things from her father. Her nickname , Ninon, and an upbringing emphazising the principles of freedom and independence. And Anne clearly learnt her lessons. She held on to her independence and never married. Instead she chose a career as a courtesan and apparently lived a long and happy life - she didn't die until at 85.

Traditionally Champagne is used for the soup but I took a lesson out of Mademoiselle Ninon's book and the liberty to use Cremant. Alsatian sparkling wine instead. And my, oh my. Trés bien, indeed.

Seves 2 or as a started 3

Crème Ninon

3 shallots, finely shopped
1 tbsp butter
1 bulb of fennel, the outer layer and the hard core removed and finely sliced
4 dl chicken or vegetable stock
400 g peas
the leaves of 2-3 sprigs of tarragon
1,5 dl cream, loosely whipped
2 tsp dry (Oloroso) sherry
salt white pepper
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest 

To serve: 
3 rasher of bacon
a drizzle of Champagne or sparkling wine

Roast bacon in the oven at 200 until crisp. Drain on kitchen towel and cut into thin strips.

Sauté shallots in butter until translucent and add fennel, Pour in stock, cover and cook until veggies are soft - 10-15 minutes. Add peas and bring to boil so peas are piping hot throughout.

Puré the soup. Add tarragon leaves, sherry, lemon zest and about 1 dl of whipped cream (reserve the rest for serving). Season with salt and white pepper. Pour back into a clean pot, bring to boil and divide into serving dishes. Spoon remaining cream on top of the soup ad scatter with bacon strips and tarragon leaves. Add a splash (1-2 tbsp) of Champagne or sparkling wine int the soup and serve.

Cremant d'Alsace is sparkling wine made with Champagne method in Alsace, the wine region I've come to love a great deal. Today´s bottle came from Wolfberger, a trusty staple on this blog. Made entirely of Pinot Blanc this wine is great value for money. A great all round fizz for any occasion. 

The wine has small, dense bubbles and a fantastic mousse. Acidity, Citric notes and gentle minerality all make for a sparkling wine that's light and, well, full of joy. Much like Mademoiselle Lenclos, then!




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