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This soup is known in France as Potage Saint-Germain, a name which comes from a suburb of Paris where peas used to be cultivated in market gardens. If fresh peas are not available, use frozen peas, but thaw and rinse them before use.

25 g/l oz/2 tbsp Butter
2 or 3 Shallots, finely chopped
400 g/14 oz/3 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 1.3 kg/3 lb garden peas) or thawed frozen peas
45-60 ml/3-4 tbsp whipping cream (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper croutons, to garnish

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan or flameproof casserole. Add the shallots and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add 500 ml/16 f] oz/2 cups water and the peas, and season with salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer for 12 minutes for young or frozen peas and up to 18 minutes for large or older peas, stirring occasionally.
When the peas are tender, ladle them into a food processor or blender with a little of the cooking liquid and process until smooth.
Strain the soup into the saucepan or casserole, stir in the cream, if using, and heat through without boiling. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot when the peas are tender, ladle garnished with croutons.