Peas must be the nation's favourite vegetable; even the convenient frozen ones are irresistible. But peas aren't paid enough attention in the kitchen and they tend to get just boiled, buttered and chucked into a bowl and served on the table. They are endlessly versatile, however; there's so much more you can do with them – from offering fresh ones raw as a little snack to blending them up to make sophisticated mushy peas to go with fried fish.

I could eat peas with almost every meal at this time of the year and I always keep a bag or two in my freezer for a rainy day (to be honest, frozen peas sometimes yield a better result than fresh ones). Whether you use fresh or frozen, the key is to add a touch of luxury to them – though there is such as thing as going too far. I've witnessed some chefs going to the trouble of removing the skin of every single pea...

Pea and lovage soup with crispy bacon

Serves 4

Lovage is one of those herbs that you have to treat with extreme caution – something that will become obvious when you taste a raw leaf. The flavour can be very strong, and once you've added too much lovage, there's no going back; heavy-handedness can ruin a good soup.

You can serve this soup hot or cold; just use oil instead of butter for cooking the leek and onion if you're planning on making a chilled soup (otherwise the fat from the butter solidifies).

1 leek, roughly chopped and washed
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
50g butter or vegetable or corn oil (see above)
1.5 litres vegetable stock
300g podded weight of fresh or frozen peas
A couple of sprigs of lovage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 rashers of rindless streaky bacon

Gently cook the leek and onion in the butter (or oil) until soft. Add the vegetable stock, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the peas (reserving a few for garnish) and the lovage, bring back to the boil and simmer for 6-7 minutes.

Blend the soup in a liquidiser until smooth and strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Correct the seasoning if necessary. While the soup is cooking either fry or grill the bacon until crisp, leave to cool and chop it finely.

If you are serving the soup cold, then chill the warm liquid as quickly as possible on some ice so that it retains its vibrant green colour.

Serve with a few cooked peas in the soup and scatter with the bacon.

Mackerel with peas and orange

Serves 4

There are endless things to do with mackerel but this is one of my favourites. It's a nice clean summery dish and you can prepare it with mackerel fillets or just cook them whole. If the mackerel are small, then use two fillets per person, or alternatively you could ask your fishmonger to butterfly them.

4 fillets from a large mackerel, weighing about 100-120g each, or 8 smaller ones
1tbsp flour for dusting
1tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
100g butter
2 large shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
The grated zest and juice of one orange
100ml fish stock
120-150g shelled weight of peas, cooked
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat half the butter in a pan and gently cook the shallots for a couple of minutes until soft, add the orange zest and juice, fish stock and peas, season and simmer for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the rest of the butter until emulsified and remove from the heat. Heat the rapeseed oil in a heavy or non-stick frying pan. Lightly flour the mackerel on the skin side and season. Fry the fillets skin-side down, first for 2-3 minutes until the skin is crisp, then turn them and cook for a couple of minutes on the other side. Spoon the peas on to serving plates; lay the fillets on top.

Calves' offal and pea salad

Serves 4 as a starter

This salad makes good use of both peas and their tendrils or shoots. If you can find British calves' offal, then all the better – but lambs' offal will create an equally delicious salad.

120-150g calves' sweetbreads
120-150g calves' liver
120-150g calves' kidney
1tbsp flour
A couple of good knobs of butter
A couple of handfuls of pea shoots, plus some other small salad leaves if you wish
100g cooked peas
6-8 mangetouts, finely shredded
A few chives, cut into 3-4cm lengths
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing

1tbsp good quality white wine or cider vinegar
1tsp caster sugar
1tsp Tewksbury or Dijon mustard
4tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
A handful of chopped mint

First make the dressing. Whisk all of the ingredients together and leave to infuse for an hour, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve.

Meanwhile, put the sweetbreads in a pan, cover them with salted water, bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes; then drain them and leave to cool.

Cut the liver and kidney into bite-sized slices and cut the sweetbreads into bite-sized chunks.

Season the sweetbreads and lightly flour them, melt a knob of butter in a heavy frying pan, season and lightly flour the sweetbreads and cook in the butter on a medium heat, turning them as they are cooking, until they are crisp.

Remove from the pan and drain on some kitchen paper. Season the kidney and liver, add the rest of the butter to the pan and fry them for about 30-40 seconds on each side, keeping them nice and pink.

To serve, toss the pea shoots, peas and mangetouts in the dressing and season. Arrange on serving plates with the offal arranged in among the leaves and scatter the chives on top.

Pork cutlet with minted pea purée and sugar snaps

Serves 4

I prefer pork chops cut from the rib end of the loin as they contain a little more fat, rather like a rib of beef, which means they stay more moist during cooking. The price you pay for a pork chop or cutlet can vary massively, though, and of course the quality and taste will depend on how much you are willing to fork out.

The rind doesn't really crisp up in the time the chop takes to cook, so I usually remove it and cook it separately to have as a snack.

4 thick pork chops or cutlets weighing about 200-250g each
A little vegetable or corn oil for grilling
100g sugar snaps, trimmed
A couple of good knobs of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pea purée

120g shelled weight of peas
100ml chicken stock
A couple of sprigs of mint
60g butter

First make the pea purée. Put the peas in a pan with the chicken stock and mint, season, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Blend in a liquidiser until smooth then transfer to a clean pan. You may need to add a little water and scrape the sides of the blender. Add the butter and re-season if necessary.

Pre-heat a ribbed griddle, barbecue or heavy frying pan. Season and brush the cutlets with oil and cook on a fairly high heat for 5-6 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the chops. Meanwhile, cook the sugar snaps in boiling salted water for a couple of minutes, then drain and toss in the butter and season. To serve, re-heat the pea purée and spoon on to warmed serving plates, place the chop on top and spoon over the sugar snaps.

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