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Asparagus and Pea Soup with Parmesan Cheese

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Serves: 6
350g / 12 oz asparagus
2 leeks
1 bay leaf
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
few stalks of fresh parsley
1.75 litres / 3 pints cold water
25g / 1 oz butter
150g / 5 oz fresh garden peas
15ml / 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
120ml / 4 fl oz double (heavy) cream
grated rind of 1 lemon
salt and ground black pepper
shavings of Parmesan cheese, to serve

Cut the woody ends from the asparagus, then set the spears aside. Roughly chop the woody ends and place them in a large pan. Cut off and chop the green parts of the leeks and add to the asparagus stalks with the bay leaf, carrot, celery, parsley stalks and the cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the vegetables.

Cut the tips off the asparagus and set aside, then cut the stems into short pieces. Chop the remainder of the leeks. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the leeks. Cook for 3-4 minutes until softened, then add the asparagus stems, peas and chopped parsley. Pour in 1.2 litres / 2 pints of the asparagus stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cook for 6-8 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Season well.

Cool the soup slightly, then puree it in a food processor or blender until smooth. Press the puree through a very fine sieve into the rinsed pan. Stir in the cream and lemon rind.

Bring a small pan of water to the boil and cook the asparagus tips for about 2-3 minutes until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. Reheat the soup, but do not allow it to boil. Ladle the soup into six warmed bowls and garnish with the asparagus tips. Serve immediately, with shavings of Parmesan cheese and plenty of ground black pepper.

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