Peas | Marc Fosh

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It’s probably true to say that the taste and texture of fresh peas has almost been forgotten in these times of convenience and frozen foods. Most people can’t even remember the last time they tasted sweet, fresh peas straight from the pod and most of us rely solely on the frozen or, worse still, the tinned ones that sit in a fowl-smelling, awful tasting, cloudy liquid. I’m a big fan of fresh peas and early spring is the best time to enjoy them.

OK, I know it’s a fiddly, time consuming job to shell and peel the little buggers, but the difference is enormous and they are definitely worth all the extra effort. They are high vitamin C and are a good source of fibre and phosphorus making them really good energy foods.

When you are buying peas in the pod, bear in mind that the sugar that makes them so exquisite begins to turn into starch as soon as they’re picked. So only choose pods that look plump, and eat them the day you buy them. In an ideal world, peas would barely leave the garden - they should be picked there and eaten there, with as little time away from the kitchen as possible.

Fresh peas are wonderful braised with lettuce, stirred into pasta carbonara or mixed with cous cous or quinoa. They make perfect partners for both fish and meat and you can cook them with almonds, artichokes, fennel, mushrooms or baby onions and flavour them with anything from mint, rosemary, and sage to savoury or thyme.

I love fresh peas in a risotto with smoked bacon, Serrano ham or chorizo. Peas also make for a great soup and it can also be served hot or cold. You can flavour the soup with mint or rosemary and fresh lemongrass that adds a little lift and an amazing aroma to the finished soup. This week I’m cooking a simple recipe of peas with fresh scallops…absolutely delicious and a marriage made in heaven!

PAN-FRIED SCALLOPS WITH FRESH PEA, LIME & MINT SOUP

I love scallops with peas and they all combine beautifully with lime & fresh mint. You could use frozen peas for this recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 12 large scallops
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
    (finely chopped)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 small potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 1litre vegetable stock
  • 2 lemongrass sticks (finely chopped)
  • 900g fresh peas, shelled
  • 150ml crème fraiche
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 4 tbsp chopped
    mint

Seasoning:

1 Cook the spring onions in the butter in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat until tender. Do not allow to colour.

2 Add the diced potatoes and stir to mix. Pour in the stock; bring to the boil and cook, covered, for about 8 minutes. Add the peas and cook for a further 5 minutes.

3 Remove from the heat and add the crème fraiche, lime juice and mint leaves. Season to taste and liquidise the soup in a food processor until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve.

4 Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and fry the scallops until golden brown. Turn over and finish cooking on the other side.

5 Season the scallops and divide them between four warm soup bowls.

6 Garnish with some fresh pea shoots and serve with the fresh pea, lime & mint soup.

FRESH PEA AND SMOKED BACON RISOTTO

Rissotto

My favourite risotto has to be pea and smoked bacon. It has a wonderfully robust flavour that is hard to beat. Peas also make for a great soup and it can also be served hot or cold. You can flavour the soup with mint or rosemary but I normally flavour mine with fresh lemongrass. It adds a little lift and an amazing aroma to the finished soup.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 300g risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano)
  • 1.5litres chicken stock
  • 250g frozen peas
  • 2 Medium onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 Garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 1tspn. Fresh thyme
  • 100g smoked bacon lardons
  • 100g butter
  • 75g freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1tbsp. Mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tbsp. Olive oil
  • 200g fresh peas (cooked and shelled)
  • Seasoning

Method:

1 Bring the chicken stock and frozen peas to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes.

2 Place in a liquidizer and blend to a puree. Pass through a fine sieve and season to taste.

3 Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the smoked bacon, chopped onion, crushed garlic and fresh thyme.

4 Cook gently and allow the onion to soften without colouring. Add the rice and stir to coat well.

5 Increase the heat and add a large ladleful of pea stock. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add more stock and continue to stir until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice has softened.

6 Add the fresh peas, mascarpone and season to taste.

7 Stir in the olive oil, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and you risotto is ready to serve.

SPRING PEA & GORGONZOLA CROSTINI WITH PARMA HAM

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices of rustic bread, (Baguette or ciabatta) toasted
  • 125g frozen peas
  • 125g Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1tbsp cream cheese
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 8 thin slices of Parma ham
  • Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 Place the peas, Gorgonzola cheese, cream cheese and olive oil in a food processor and blend to combine.

2 Season with sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper.

3 Spread the bread slices with the Gorgonzola mixture and top each slice with Parma ham. Serve immediately.