We might not be able to grow peaches, aubergines, watermelons or mangoes, but in Britain we do have the perfect climate for peas. As a child I used to love the early summer when you could hide away in the vegetable patch scoffing fresh peas straight from the pod, I still love them raw in a salad, and the fresh pea shoots too. Britain produces 160,000 tons of frozen peas each year and there are certain dishes such as shepherd’s pie that I couldn’t contemplate eating without a pile of barely-cooked petit pois and a hint of fresh mint. But today I’m talking dried peas, the rather unglamorous forefathers of the ubiquitous green pea.
It’s easy to forget that historically, peas were grown to be dried, stored and eaten at a later date. “Pease” were a British staple from the Middle Ages right through to the mid 20th century. You only have to think back to the old nursery rhyme to realise that dried peas were once a key source of protein in our diets, pushed aside in more recent times by meat.
Pease pudding hot, Pease Pudding cold
Pease pudding in the pot nine-days old
Today with ever-growing sustainability, animal welfare, health and obesity concerns many of us are looking towards a more plant-based diet and so I say “All Hail the Great British Pea”.
We’ve cooked dried yellow and green peas in comforting, wintery soups for centuries. Whilst it’s possible to buy whole peas, split peas are much quicker and easier to cook, since they have lost their thick skins and don’t need any soaking. It may not be quite the season for it but pea and ham soup is a British classic (it’s other name London Particular harks back to the pea-souper fogs that used to engulf the capital) You will find my recipe here on The Borough Market website Split peas are a great store cupboard standby; they make wonderful dal and Greek Fava purée too.
My latest discovery is green pea flour (quite literally ground, dried green peas). I’m happy to eat gluten, but for any of you cutting it out, this pea flour could be very handy. I’ve written about farinata (socca before) and this recipe is just a variation on the chickpea flour (gram flour) pancake eaten on the Mediterranean Rivieras. The colour is a glorious Kermit green and it tastes amazing too.
Pea Fritters with Ricotta and Honey
(makes about 16 individual or 2-3 larger pancakes)
100 g green pea flour
180 ml water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp olive oil for frying.
75 g ricotta cheese (I found some local, fresh goat’s milk ricotta)
a couple of tablespoons of delicate honey
a few fresh mint leaves
Pour the pea flour into a jug and add about half the water. Stir until you have a thick , smooth paste and then add the remaining water, oil and salt. Leave to rest for at least an hour (for the starch to swell) – I’ve left it for a day too and it was fine.
Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a frying pan until searing hot and then spoon in small pools of the mixture for individual pancakes or cover the pan with about 1 cm of mixture for a whole cake. Fry until set underneath but still slightly slimy on the top. Flip the small pancakes over with a palette knife or turn the large cake over on a large plate. Add a dash more oil and fry the underside.
Serve warm topped with ricotta, honey, black pepper and mint (and in this case a slice of fresh apricot)
Pea pancakes also make a marvellous savoury dish. Here are a couple of my instagram snaps of suppers past: pancakes topped with chicken, parmesan and lemon and then on another occasion with treacle lardons from Charcutierltd and a soft egg.
And some other peas………
If you read my blog at all you’re sure to have come across my favourite Black Badgers aka Carlin Peas – here’s the recipe for a super tasty (and just happens to be healthy )salad and in a few days time I’ll post the recipe for “Grey Peas” (not a particularly alluring name, I agree) that I cooked for the Radio 4 Food Programme.
And ....If you’re after pea flour Hodmedods sell it by mail order and in many health food shops, grocers etc. Someone did ask me the other day if I work for Hodmedods – the answer is no, thus far I’ve never written a sponsored blog of any kind. I just happen to love what Hodmedods do and sell.
Lastly a confession: as a Pulse Ambassador, I’m ashamed to admit that I just can’t get excited about marrowfat peas, even mushy peas have never really done it for me. Go on, do try to convert me. Nigella’s avocado and marrowfat pea purée is pretty good but I’d still rather eat guacamole.
The Radio 4 Food Programme about Pulses is no longer being broadcast this weekend (there was a reshuffle after a very fast turnaround programme last weekend about the Brexit effect on our food – really worth a listen on podcast) I’ll keep you updated.