Green Pea and Chicory Soup with Grilled Pepper and Crispy Bacon

In this homely soup, perfect for lunch with bread and cheese, the sweetness of the peas complements the unique and pleasurable bitterness of chicory. Vegetarians can simply omit the bacon.

Ingredients

  • 1 large red pepper
  • 225 g/8 oz chicory
  • 50 g/2 oz butter
  • 2 level teaspoons caster sugar
  • 600 ml/1 pint vegetable or chicken stock
  • 225 g/8 oz frozen peas
  • large handful fresh flat-leafed parsley
  • 225 g/8 oz rindless smoked streaky bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 150 ml/¼ pint soured cream
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Method

Cut the pepper in half, discard the seeds and stem and put the halves skin-side up under a very hot grill until blackened all over. Then put them into a plastic or paper bag and leave to cool. Slice the chicory roughly. Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the chicory, cover and cook gently for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Stir in the sugar, add the stock and bring to the boil. Add the peas and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, put a sieve over a saucepan and pour the mixture into it, keeping the solids in the sieve. Whizz the contents of the sieve and 2 tablespoons of the liquid in a food processor until smooth. Then stir the purée back into the stock in the saucepan. Season to taste.

Skin and finely slice the red pepper. Chop the parsley. Cut the bacon into 1.25cm/½ in pieces. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp, then remove from the heat. Just before serving, reheat the soup and stir in the red pepper and most of the parsley. Add the bacon and spoon the soup into bowls. Swirl in the soured cream and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

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