I pod: Mark Hix sings the praises of the versatile pea – his favourite vegetable of the moment

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Peas are very in vogue at the moment, and whether they are fresh or frozen, they're still one of my favourite vegetables. I always have a packet of frozen peas in my tiny freezer at home as they are so versatile when I want to knock up a quick soup or add a finishing touch to pastas and risottos. The market tends to get flooded with foreign imports during May and June and our own native peas and beans start to appear properly around now. Peas are at their best when freshly picked; if you wait too long they can end up being a bit tough and not quite so sweet. I love serving them at the table in their pods for guests to snack on during a meal.

Monkfish liver, bacon and pea-shoot salad with a poached hen's egg

Serves 4

This salad was created a few weeks back when Darren Brown gave me some monkfish livers in London's Borough Market that came from West Bay. I quickly packed them into ice and took them right back where they came from (in fact a bit further): down to Lyme Regis. The local suppliers don't seem to be interested in monkfish liver down there for some reason – and it's difficult enough to get, even in London.

This recipe is a take on the French salad frisée aux lardons but using pea shoots and pieces of monkfish liver instead. Monkfish liver is the equivalent of the foie gras of the sea and can be used in a similar way; I've even made the equivalent of Tournedos Rossini before with a chunk of monkfish fillet topped with a slice of liver.

300g monkfish liver, washed
Milk for poaching
A couple of good knobs of butter
120-150g piece of streaky bacon, cut into rough cm chunks
4 free-range hens' eggs
A couple of handfuls of pea shoots, washed
60-70g shelled weight of peas, cooked
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing

1tbsp cider vinegar
2tsp Dijon or Tewksbury mustard
2tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
2tbsp corn or vegetable oil

Place the monkfish liver in a pan and cover with milk, season well, bring to the boil and simmer for about 4-5 minutes then leave to cool in the milk. Once cool, rinse off under the cold tap and cut into 2cm chunks. Cook the bacon pieces in a dry pan on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until crisp, turning them every so often, then remove with a slotted spoon on to some kitchen paper. Melt the butter in the same pan, season and cook the monkfish livers on a high heat for a few minutes until nicely coloured. Meanwhile, poach the eggs. Whisk the ingredients together for the dressing and season.

Toss the pea shoots in some of the dressing and arrange on plates or bowls and scatter over the bacon, monkfish liver and peas. Season the salad, place the poached egg in the centre and spoon over a little more dressing.

Fresh pea falafels

Makes about 20 patties

I'm probably going to be criticised by falafel purists for using peas instead of broad beans – and fresh ones at that! A few years ago I made falafel with fresh broad beans, which really added a new dimension, but falafels are more often made from dried chickpeas as well as dried fava or broad beans.

400g podded weight of fresh peas
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1tbsp chopped parsley
1tbsp chopped dill
1tbsp chopped coriander leaves
5 spring onions, finely chopped
A good pinch of cayenne pepper
4-5tbsp dry white breadcrumbs
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
Lemon wedges to serve

For the minted yoghurt

1tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
100g thick Greek yoghurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the peas in a food processor with the garlic, ground coriander and cumin, and blend to a coarse purée. You will have to stop the machine a couple of times to scrape the sides with a spatula so you get an even-textured purée. Remove from the machine and transfer into a bowl. Mix in the parsley, dill, coriander and spring onions; season with salt and cayenne pepper (they will need seasoning well) and mix in the breadcrumbs. Make the patties by shaping small handfuls into balls in your hands and flattening them slightly. Put them on a tray or plate and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Pre-heat about 8cm of vegetable oil to 160-180C in a heavy-bottomed pan or electric deep fryer. Fry the falafels, about 5 or 6 at a time depending on the size of the fryer, for 5-6 minutes until golden, then remove from the fat and drain on kitchen paper.

Meanwhile, mix the mint with the yoghurt and season well. Serve the falafels hot with the lemon wedges in pitta bread as a vegetarian kebab, or you could also have them cold for a picnic.


Makes 4

The idea for this came after a pea-shoot lunch that we held at the Chop House a couple of months ago.

50ml gin (I use Hendrick's)
25ml pea-shoot purée (made from 50g of pea shoots blended with enough water to create a purée; keep a few shoots for garnish)
20ml gomme (sugar syrup)
1 wedge of lemon

Place the gin, purée, sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker, squeeze lemon into the shaker. Shake (with lemon wedge in) and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish the glass with a wedge of lemon and float a pea-shoot on the top.

Macaroni with peas and cuttlefish

Serves 4

The British cuttlefish season is just about coming to an end and I would imagine less than 5 per cent of our haul is actually consumed in the UK, if that. For a nation that eats a fair bit of squid, we are still rather nervous about cuttlefish; maybe it's the thought of that dried vertebrae in budgie cages that puts people off. Oh, and get your fishmonger to clean the cuttlefish for you, as it can be a messy job.

4 servings of garganelli pasta, or similar
1 small onion, peeled, halved, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
4tbsp olive oil
100ml white wine
250ml fish stock
150g unsalted butter
400-500g cuttlefish (cleaned weight), cut into thin strips
150g cooked peas
A handful of pea shoots, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gently cook the onion and garlic in the butter for 2-3 minutes until soft, then add the white wine and simmer until it's almost evaporated, then add the fish stock and reduce by half. Season the cuttlefish, melt a little of the butter in a frying pan until foaming and quickly fry the pieces of cuttlefish for about a minute, stirring every so often (you may need to cook it in a couple of batches). Chop over the peas a little and add to the sauce with the cuttlefish and stir in the rest of the butter.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water, then drain, reserving a little of the cooking water to adjust the sauce. Mix the pasta with the peas, cuttlefish, sauce and pea shoots, season and add a little of the cooking water if necessary. Serve immediately.

Join beer expert Rupert Ponsonby for an entertaining evening of beer and food matching at the Hix Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis on 14 July. Tickets are £45 each, including beer and a 3-course meal. Contact Jo Verberne on 01206 756388 or e-mail jverberne@hixfoodetc.co.uk

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