'Everybody loves peas. East and west, it's the world's favourite vegetable. Peas were the first vegetable to be canned, the first to be frozen. They are the gourmet's delight... and the only green vegetable that most children will eat.'
After seeing a divine-looking garden pea soup with baby spinach, truffle and scallops on facebook recently, these petit pois grown by Sorbello Family Fresh Produce at the Capital Region Farmer's Market took my fancy. I've always had a thing for peas. Fresh peas in the pod were more readily available once upon a time, and far less expensive too! And back then, people like my mother actually had (or made) the time to relax and shell them. When I was a child, my mum and I would sit together, shelling peas, chatting all the while... and sometimes even the family budgerigar got in on the act!
In the chapter on peas in her book, Good Things (one of my favourites and the inspiration behind the title to this little blog of mine), Jane Grigson reminded us of the verse that recommends eating peas with honey because it 'keeps them on the knife'. She added that 'these days, our problem is not how to eat peas, but how to find good peas in the first place. People with gardens are able to [grow and] pick them just at the right moment, and cook them within a couple of hours. This is perfection. The rest of us have to chase round greengrocers' shops, trying to find peas which haven't been picked too large, or kept too long.' So true.
For those who are not growing their own, farmer's markets and quality greengrocers are the best place to source freshly harvested peas. Once picked, the sugar within the peas turns to starch and the peas themselves become less flavoursome too. Look out for shiny and bright green, crisp pods that are firm but not too large. Once shelled, peas can be gently cooked in a lightly salted water until just tender. Baby pea pods are also edible and can be used in stir fries. My mother cooked little peas into a delicate, clear chicken and vegetable broth with semolina dumplings and I can still taste the subtle sweetness that the peas added to the soup. Braised peas are exquisite when combined with finely chopped eschalot, diced bacon, shredded lettuce leaves, tarragon and butter. Of course peas are perfect in risotto or the classic Risi e Bisi (rice with pancetta and peas); and who doesn't love peas when they are served with fresh mint!?
Watch this space for details of the garden pea soup adapted from a recipe by Shannon Bennett of Vue de Monde. My blogger colleague advises the recipe will be posted very soon. If it tastes as good as it looks, it'll be a cracker!
Do love peas as much as I do and have you ever eaten them with honey? Perhaps you grow them in your kitchen garden? How do you cook peas at your place? Please, share your recipes.
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.