I intend to post a few recipes using peas in the next few weeks so I thought I’d talk a little about peas first. Indulge me.
Fresh green peas begin to appear in the market in late spring and remain until mid summer. If you have only eaten frozen peas up to now I hope I can persuade you to venture to your local farmers market, pick up fresh peas in their pods, return home and shell them the old fashion way, by hand. When I do it, I feel connected to past generations sitting on their front porch with a basketfull of peas, shelling them and visiting with whoever stopped by to say hello. When you shell your own peas you will be rewarded for your labour with a special culinary experience.
When selecting peas choose the plump pods that are bright green and with a slight sheen, promising nice, round juicy peas inside. You can refrigerate them when you get home but try to cook them as soon a s possible to experience the special flavour of just picked and shelled peas. However, if I get carried away at the market as is often the case and come home with enough peas to feed an army of pea lovers, I do freeze them then. I shell them and place the shelled peas in plastic freezer bags and put them in the freezer to be called on when needed later.
To shell them press the seams towards each other until they pop and the green peas, lined up in a row like cadets are exposed. Push them out of the pod and release into the waiting bowl. Soon they will be joined there by their look alike siblings each piled on top of the other with the occasional adventurous pea rolling away to see what’s going on outside of the bowl.
Freshly shelled peas cook very quickly and hardly need anything other than a pat of butter and some salt. You can sauté a shallot or two in butter, add the peas and cook for a short while, then add shredded leaves of tender lettuce, perhaps butter lettuce, add a touch of stock or water and let the lettuce wilt and the peas finish cooking together. You will be surprised at how much delicate flavour emerges from such a simple preparation. Add a little chopped herb for an additional layer of flavour. See recipe here.
Fresh peas make a lovely purée of fresh pea soup. Add a touch of cream and a couple of slivers of fresh mint for a refreshing soup you could serve hot or chilled. Spoon a cupful of freshly shelled uncooked peas into a simmering risotto and let them cook together, the peas and the grains, for a lovely and special spring pea risotto. Don’t forget a small pat of butter and a handful of grated cheese at the end of the cooking, to bring the flavours and textures together. See the risotto recipe here.
Each spring I await their arrival with anticipation and look forward to their annual visit to my kitchen.