Eat shoots and leaves: Mark Hix gets creative with fresh peas, mangetouts and sugar snaps

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English peas and their offsprings, such as mangetouts and sugar snaps, and of course pea shoots and tendrils, are great tossed into a salad. I plant a member of the pea family most years – and end up using more of the shoots and leaves than the actual vegetable itself.

Sea trout and pea salad

Serves 4 as a main course

If you can get your hands on wild sea trout it's a very fine eating fish and works a treat in a light salad with fresh peas and shoots and some shredded sugar snaps or mangetouts – whatever you can find.

400-450g sea trout fillet, skinned and boned

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2tbsp rapeseed oil
A couple of handfuls of pea shoots, washed
60-80g shelled weight of peas, cooked
8-10 pieces of mangetouts or sugar snaps, shredded
A few long lengths of chive tips to garnish

For the dressing

1tbsp cider vinegar
½tsp caster sugar
1tsp Tewkesbury or Dijon mustard
2tbsp rapeseed oil
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil

Cut the sea trout fillet into 2cm squares and season. Heat the rapeseed oil in a non-stick pan and cook the pieces of sea trout on a high heat for 2-3 minutes, turning them as they are cooking and keeping them nice and pink. Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking all of the ingredients together; season.

To serve, toss the pea shoots with the peas, sugar snaps or mangetouts in the dressing, season and arrange on plates with the pieces of sea trout; scatter over the chives.

Pea and ham fritters

Serves 4-6

I remember fish and chip shops serving pea fritters along with other old-fashioned classics like faggots, but sadly that's a thing of the past now.

You can serve these as snacks with drinks, or as a starter. You can use good-quality shop-bought ham for this, or if you have cooked a ham yourself it's a great dish to utilise the off-cuts. You can serve these as they are or with a minted yogurt dip, or mix some chopped cooked peas with mayonnaise and mint, or another herb.

150g podded weight of peas, fresh or frozen, cooked
150g cooked ham, chopped into small pieces
3 spring onions, trimmed, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
3-4tbsp self-raising flour
About 150ml water to mix

Cut the peas by hand or by giving them a quick whizz in a food processor. Mix the peas, ham and spring onions together and season, then stir in the flour and enough water to make a thick, batter-like mix.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or an electric deep-fat fryer. Drop a teaspoonful of the mix in (you can use whatever size spoon you wish, depending if it's a snack or starter) and cook for 20-30 seconds until lightly coloured; test it for seasoning. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, turning them carefully in the oil with a slotted spoon as they are cooking and draining on some kitchen paper.

Sugar snap curry

Serves 4

This makes a lovely spring or summer vegetable accompaniment, starter or part of a cold buffet. You can even serve this with rice as a vegetarian main course.

200-250g sugar snaps, trimmed
60ml of ghee, butter or corn oil
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ground turmeric
2tsp ground coriander
Seeds of 6 cardamom pods
1tsp black mustard seeds
1tsp fenugreek seeds
20 curry leaves
¼tsp ground black pepper
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tsp finely-grated root ginger
1-2 red or green chillies, sliced
½tbsp tomato purée
600-800ml vegetable stock
2-3tbsp chopped coriander
Salt to taste

Heat the butter or ghee in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook all of the spices on a low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring so they do not burn and the seeds start popping a little. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies, cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the tomato purée and stock, season if necessary, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half.

Stir in the sugar snaps and simmer for another 7-8 minutes, or until the sauce is just coating them; you can top up with a little water if the sauce is reducing too much. Stir in the coriander and remove from the heat.

Peas, artichokes and mint

Serves 4

Last year I discovered some frozen prepared artichoke bottoms in my local Middle Eastern supermarket. I must say they are a great product and seem unaffected by the freezing process. I'm all for finding convenience foods that you can serve with no effort and no one knows the difference.

Frozen peas are one of my favourites, as well as these artichokes, and combined they make a luxurious starter or side dish, or even part of a mixture of starters.

4 frozen globe artichoke bottoms, defrosted, quartered
150g frozen peas or petit pois, defrosted
50g butter
A handful of mint leaves, torn
A handful of pea shoots (optional), washed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the artichokes in a pan with a good pinch of salt and simmer for 3-4 minutes, then add the peas and simmer for another minute; drain. Return to the pan, add the butter and mint (and pea shoots, if using), season and just reheat for a minute and serve.

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