Originally French Pea Soup, Potage Saint Germain, was made with fresh peas and it was only until later that the split pea version became more common place. The pea soup takes its name from Chateau de Saint Germain en Laye, a royal palace, about 11 miles west of Paris. The chateau was renowned for its gardens and was the birthplace of King Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) . . . who, as it happens, loved peas.
The King held his Court at Saint Germain between 1663 – 1682 and when he moved into Versailles his gardener, Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinie developed the sweet green pea hybrid petits pois in the King's famous Potager du Roi, (the Royal Kitchen Garden) there. This garden produced fresh vegetables and fruits for the tables of the Court – it required 30 experienced gardeners to tend it, covered 25 acres and contained 12,000 trees. It still exists today.
Petis pois soon became a craze and Louis' mistress, Madame de Maintenon, wrote of the ladies who, “having supped and supped well with the King, have peas waiting for them in their rooms before going to bed – at the risk of indigestion. It is both a fashion and a madness.”
The old recipe for Potage Saint Germain contains fresh peas, lettuce, white leeks, a mirepoix (combination of diced carrots, bacon, onions and celery), pepper, chervil and tarragon. The recipe below uses fresh peas from the pod but you can substitute these with frozen petits pois.
2 leeks, white parts only, finely chopped
½ cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
2 cups water
4 cups petits pois
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup double cream
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the leeks and cook until softened. Add the chicken stock and water into the saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the peas and lettuce, partially cover the saucepan with a lid and simmer for 7 – 8 mins until the peas are tender. Add the mint.
Pour into a blender and liquidise. Return the soup to the saucepan, season with salt and pepper and heat for 2 -3 minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls, add the double cream as a garnish and sprinkle with peas or croutons.
Sauvignon Blanc is lovely with fresh summer soups and either a single variety wine such as Fleur de Luze or Montagnac Sauvignon Blanc from the Languedoc Roussillon (both of which are 100% Sauvignon Blanc) or a Bordeaux Blanc with a high percentage of this grape in the blend would be a good choice. Chateau Le Rondailh (80%) or Chateau Vrai Caillou (70%) are highly recommended.