Flavour of the month
I’ve been zig-zagging the country for the past couple of months giving talks about my latest book Eat Clean Green and Vegetarian and one of the common requests that I’ve encountered is the opportunity to look at individual ingredients in more detail.
I’m going to be adding a new section to the blog whereby each month I’ll shine the spotlight on one of my favourite ingredients and present its unique health benefits, along with deliciously clean and simple recipes.
To kick off, I’m letting you in on one of my favourite secret ingredients the overly overlooked green pea. By the end of this post I hope that you’ll agree this little pocket rocket will be worth shelling out for.
The dreaded green pea has for some families and in particular their children been one of the worst nightmares at the dinner table, primarily in the form of a torturous sphere of green mush on a plate.
However, with the help of my new column I’m hoping to reignite the vividly emerald Green Pea and provide it with a new lease of life in your kitchen by offering you an insight into its enormous health reimbursements.
Although we consider the pea a vegetable for culinary purposes, each pea pod and its contents is collectively a fruit, and the peas inside are the seeds.
The toddlers of the bunch are harvested young and known as snow peas and sugar snap peas, or mangetout. The latter being fuller and rounder than pea pods and both the pod and peas can be eaten. To prepare younger varieties, rinse in cold water, and top and tail by removing the string running along either side of the pod.
Sugar snaps are delicious in a stir fry or crunchy salad or steamed until crisp then topped with olive oil. Snow peas have an edible pod that is flatter and it’s best to look for smaller more tender versions.
Once they become teenagers they evolve into sweet garden peas, delicious in soups and cooked salads. One of my favourite warming pea salad dishes is warmed peas with crispy pancetta and melted crumbled feta. As peas age they are dried, husked and divided forming split peas, a staple of India cuisine and recipes such as aloo matar.
When they hit retirement and enter their twilight years they become marrowfat peas, the perfect ingredient for the British staple mushy peas.
In Australia fresh peas are at their best from October through to December and the Northern Hemisphere from May to October.
In Norse mythology, the pea was dedicated to their God Thor, endorsing pea eating day on Thursdays only. Thank goodness those sanctions have been lifted and we can all enjoy this rustic ball of virtuousness.
Peas are an outstanding source of protein, iron, magnesium, vitamins (strong bones and teeth), B1 (energy production, metabolism of carbohydrates) and B6 (support physical and mental health). One of the wonderful gut related advantages of peas is that they help to repair the membranes within the small intestines and the prevention of fats being absorbed, reversing the damage that gluten can do to the gut lining. Peas are also extremely high in fibre, making you feel fuller longer and promoting regular bowel movements.
What To Look For
When shopping for fresh peas, look for vibrancy, and a slightly waxy, strong, smooth surface with no blemishes along the entire length of the pod. If you look for fairly plump pea pods, you’ll be sure to get delicious circles of green goodness but overly bulging pods may indicate peas of a more mature nature. Stay clear of discoloration, and be aware of dry, split or wrinkled bodies.
To shell peas, run your thumbnail along the seam of the pod to split it open then flip out the peas from the pod. A good conversion is 175 gm peas will provide ½ cup shelled.
I love to add peas to stir fries, try my stir fry ginger beef with snow pea recipe here, salads, or soups such as my lamb and pea soup here. Risottos are pea worthy along with a breakfast dream dish of pea pancakes or combine with cauliflower to make a yummy mash. The best partner ingredients for peas are onion, shallot, mint, parsley, goats cheeses, flaked almonds, feta, bacon, lamb and eggs.
Peas should be stored cold so that they retain their sweetness. Store them in a freezer bag in the crisper and they can last up to 5 days.
You’ll love my character filled and robust Pea Soup recipe. Crisp garden-fresh or dependable frozen peas can be used, but remember to look out for the smaller, sweeter petits pois if you're buying them frozen.
Ensure that you pre-roast the garlic bulb to add extra sweetness to the soup and to prevent this vivid dish from becoming a bowl filled with the spicy taste of unroasted garlic.
The fluffy and earthiness of this dish will soothe the soul and the addition of apple cider vinegar will add a touch of freshness and bounce.
Simmering the soup on the stove increases the flavour ten-fold; if you’re not pushed for time, let it simmer for fifteen minutes before blending. Easy Peasy!
Pea Soup for the Soul
WF DF GF SF VEG VG
- 1 garlic bulb (corm)
- 60 ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, plus extra, to serve
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 3 thyme sprigs, leaves only
- 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) vegetable stock
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) fresh or frozen peas
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Celtic sea salt and freshly ground
- handful of parsley leaves, plus extra,
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6).
- Cut the top off the garlic bulb, place on a baking tray, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and bake for 30–35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the onion and thyme for 5 minutes. Add the stock, peas, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the parsley and simmer gently, partially covered, for 5–10 minutes. (Cook for longer if you would like a stronger flavour.)
- Remove from the heat and place in a blender.
- Remove the garlic from the oven and squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins. Add to the blender and blend until smooth.
- Serve sprinkled with the extra parsley leaves at the end to give it a fresher taste and complete with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.