Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Peas, peas, more if you please...

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I like a pea, me.

Maybe it's just midwinter, freezing, miserable dog days after festive merriment, which turn thoughts inexorably to the summer pea. Or possibly it was that pulao rice. Always ask for peas pulao, even if it turns out to be a few desultory thawed out bullets mixed in the microwave. Last night I was lucky: egg, beans, and lots of little bright green peas.

Peas are one of the joys of spring, but frozen peas are just as good. Picked young and fresh they taste fantastic when heated up (DO NOT cook them). They have a myriad of uses. Straightforward greenery with melting butter. Whizzed up for soup and ham. Braised with little onions, lardons and lettuce. Apparently northern people like them mashed with vinegar (yuk). Or kept in the bag and used as a relief for bad back/ injured knee / hangover (apply to sweaty forehead).
As a kid in the back garden if I managed to get 50% back to the kitchen that was a good day. Most of the young pods I picked would be clicked open and their contents rolled straight onto the tongue. They were then, and are now, the perfect snack food. In cinemas, 500g of fresh peas beats chocolate peanuts any day.

But I find myself in regular argument on the M25.
ItalicMe: (driving roofless with paper bag of peapods on lap, throwing emptied pods into the air while munching happily) "They are NOT rubbish! They are organic! Biodegradable! Whatever"
She: "They are litter! Don't be so disgusting!"
Me: (munching). "Not"

There is nothing quite like scarfing handfuls of fresh peas from the pod (on the M25 they must be opened with one hand, otherwise it gets dangerous. Especially if you're on the phone at the time and don't have hands free). Even late in the season, big, starchy, peas are still better than snackfood wotsits.

When the sun shines, peas should be served with every meal. On their own, with asparagus, in omelettes, in a primavera risotto with fresh beans, cold in salads, warm with chicken. With mint, with onion, with bacon, with fish and chips. In winter no dinner is complete without the pea.

In a two star Michelin restaurant in France recently a sashimi of raw langoustine was accompanied by a disc of aspic jelly, looking for all the world like a paperweight, in which were suspended a few reminders of summer - mostly peas. Delightful.

In pasta it is obligatory. A friend in the Groucho Club will cause trouble, not the drug fuelled drunken variety, but gastronomic when his pasta arrives unadorned with the little green jewels. Some chefs have had the temerity to disagree. Pea-inspired shouting generally ensues.

In the curry last night, a Goan chicken dish was warming, juicy and just the ticket for sub zero temperatures. But the rice was spiked with tasty, juicy, freshly thawed petit pois. Joy. It won the plate competition.

The only thing I hold against the genius of John Lloyd and his Spitting Image puppetry magic was the association he drew between Prime Minister John Major's grey, boring private life with Norma, and peas. Damaged their image forever. Peas, I mean. Turned out, I am relieved to say, to be complete fiction. But the reality came a little late. Peas were boring.

I suppose that's more for me.

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