Bring 2 litres water to a rolling boil. Blanch the peas for 8–10 minutes or until tender. Remove the peas and refresh in cold water, drain and dry, then reserve. Do not throw away the cooking water, it provides the liquid for the soup.
In a largish casserole or saucepan (how large? Answer: large enough to accommodate the ingredients), melt the butter, add the soffritto, and sweat for 10 minutes over a medium to low heat. Add the potato dice and sweat for a further 5 minutes, until they start to stick.
While the soffritto is sweating, string the pea pods, and chop them coarsely. Add to the soffritto and potato and toss. Add enough of the pea cooking water to barely cover the vegetables. Season and stir. Turn up the heat and boil until the potato dice disintegrate. Allow to cool for a few minutes off the heat. Purée this soup mix in a liquidiser. Pour it through a fine sieve, pressing hard to get everything through except the stringier bits of the pods. I tend to make my puréed vegetable soups rather thick and then add more water if necessary. Like salt, excess water is difficult to remove from a dish.
To serve, reheat the soup with the peas in it, and check the seasoning. Serve with the croûtons and a spoonful of crème fraîche in each soup plate, and a very light dusting of hot paprika – more for colour contrast than taste.
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.