lovage, lettuce, pea and cucumber soup

July 11, 2011


Have you heard of it? Doesn’t it have the best name of anything you’ve ever thought of putting it your mouth?

I’m assuming that there are several people out there who, like me, had never heard of this herb so here’s what you need to know.

The leaves look like this:

Kind of like giant flat-leaf parsley and the stalks are long, hollow and hard. When you cut them up, they look like this:

Lovage tastes like a more peppery celery with maybe a hint of parsley flavour too. I read here that it belongs to the Umbelliferae family, which includes carrots, parsnips, parsley and celery…which makes sense, given the taste.

You can understand why this soup also makes sense – the lovage gives it a spicy, alive flavour. The peas sweeten things up and the cucumber and lettuce mellow that all out a little. It’s a great combination of flavours and textures and yet it’s light and broth-y – perfect for summer gardens and warm evenings.

And where to find this lovage now that I’m guessing you’d like to try it too? Well I asked the same question on Twitter and was told that if I let farmers at the farmers’ market know I was interested in some they’d likely bring me some, even if it’s not part of their normal haul. This time around though I was amazingly lucky in that a fellow local food blogger, Kate had some growing in her garden that she gave me free of charge. The power and wonder of the internet, hey.

What else?

– Chop the green leaves and add them to salads
German Potato Salad with Lovage
– Add leaves to a melty egg scramble or frittata
– Steam the young stems from the plant’s centre and serve as a side veg – lovely with a summer roast chicken.
– Lovage pesto on lamb sounds truly outstanding.

Lovage, Lettuce, Pea and Cucumber Soup
from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for The Guardian


  • scant 1.5 tbsp (20g) butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few young lovage stalks, chopped
  • 24 oz (700ml) vegetable stock
  • 1 small butter lettuce or 2 little gem lettuces, finely shredded
  • 3.5 oz (100g) peas (I used fresh English garden peas)
  • ½ cucumber, cut into 5mm dice
  • 1 small handful lovage leaves, shredded
  • A few tablespoons of crème fraîche or thick yoghurt, to finish


  1. Warm the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion, thyme and a pinch of salt, and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the lovage stalks and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  2. Pour in the stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the veg (keep back some lovage leaves to garnish) and simmer for five minutes. Season and serve with dollops of crème fraîche or thick yoghurt and a scattering of lovage leaves.


You could puree this soup too but if you did that I’d say a healthy slug of cream would be both essential and delicious.

Also, I found the vegetable stock we used a bit too domineering. Dan and I were talking about how a lot of the stocks/broths we buy in shops seem to have a tomato-y element that we really don’t care for, especially in a soup like this. You could make your own much lighter broth and I think it would be a better complement to all these flavours.

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