Worth shelling out: Mark Hix celebrates summer's most versatile vegetable – the humble pea

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

It's always refreshing to see fresh British green vegetables popping up in the shops and food markets at this time of year, although I confess that I wish that our short asparagus season lasted for another month or so.

I always associate peas with British cuisine, although you do see them all over the world in various forms – both fresh and frozen. And I'm always amazed at how good frozen peas are and I'm not at all embarrassed to admit that there's always a bag in my deep freeze. The problem with fresh peas is that unless you pick them yourself, you don't quite know how long they have been knocking around for and once cooked they might not turn out quite as sweet and juicy as you expected.

We always offer fresh peas as a bar or pre-dinner snack in the restaurants when they are in season and it brings back childhood memories of podding them in the garden on the deckchair with my grandmother.

Chilled pea and fennel soup

Serves 4

I bought some lovely young fennel from Tony Booth, who has now moved out of Borough Market to the food market at Tower Bridge. As well as the bulbs, I've also used the stalks and fern in this soup and shredded the stalk to make a salad garnish – and just one stem of fennel will be enough for 4 good servings with the peas.

1tbsp vegetable or corn oil
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stem of baby or young fennel (or a couple if they are small)
1.2 litres vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
350g freshly podded peas (or frozen ones will do)
1tsp cider vinegar
1tbsp rapeseed oil

Cut the fennel bulb away from the stalks and finely shred it with a sharp knife or on a mandolin and put to one side. Separate the ferns from the stalks and just keep a few of the ferns for garnish. Roughly chop the stalks, then heat the oil in a pan and gently cook the onion and stalks for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft. Add the stock, season and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes.

Reserve about 60-70g of the peas and cook in boiling salted water with a little sugar, then drain, cool under the tap and mix with the shredded fennel. Add the rest of the peas to the soup and simmer for another 6-7 minutes or until they are tender (frozen peas will only need a couple of minutes once they come back to a simmer).

Blend in a liquidiser until smooth, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Pass through a sieve if you wish (some blenders do a better job than others) then leave to cool and adjust the consistency with a little more stock if necessary.

To serve, mix the cider vinegar and rapeseed oil with the peas, fennel and a few ferns and season. Pour the soup into shallow soup bowls and pile the pea and fennel salad up in the centre.

Grilled salmon with pea and leek broth

Serves 4

A piece of wild salmon or sea trout freshly grilled is great just simply served as a starter or main with a light broth of peas and leeks. If you have made the pea soup recipe (see above) you can just use a little of that thinned down with some fish stock.

4 salmon fillets weighing about 150-160g (100g for starters) boned with the skin on or off
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for brushing

For the broth

Use the pea and fennel soup recipe thinned down with a little fish stock

To garnish

8 or so young leeks, trimmed, washed and halved
60-70g or so of podded peas, cooked
A couple of good knobs of butter

Cook the leeks in boiling salted water, then drain. Heat the broth and add the leeks and peas; season to taste, then stir in the butter. The broth should be single-cream consistency; just add a little stock if you need to.

Meanwhile, preheat a ribbed griddle or heavy-based frying pan, season the salmon and lightly brush the pan with oil. Cook the salmon for 2-3 minutes on each side with the skin side down first, keeping it a little pink.

To serve, spoon the leeks, peas and broth into deep serving plates and place the salmon on top.

Deep-fried pea pods with minted pea mayonnaise

Serves 4-6

You may recall that a couple of years back I decided to deep-fry some broad bean pods instead of tossing them on to the compost – and very delicious they were too. Well I'm still on my Love Food Hate Waste campaign and I think that if you love food and shopping and growing then it's natural not to want to waste a thing. If you have nice young peas in their pods, the pods themselves will make great crispy snacks and you will get more out of the pods than the actual peas themselves. If you wish, you can also spice up the flour with some ground cumin or paprika.

A couple of handfuls of pea pods, shelled
120-150g self-raising flour (preferably Doves Farm gluten-free)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150ml milk
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Cornish sea salt for sprinkling

For the mayonnaise

50g well-cooked peas
10-12 mint leaves, washed
3-4tbsp good-quality mayonnaise

First, make the mayonnaise. Blend the peas and mint in a liquidiser with a little water until it's smooth. Mix with enough of the mayonnaise to taste; season.

Season the flour well and add the suggested spices above if you wish. Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.

Have three bowls ready, one for the seasoned flour, one for the milk and the third for the finished pea pods. Coat the pods in the flour, shaking off any excess, then pass them through the milk and again through the flour.

Deep fry in batches, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes until lightly coloured and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon on to some kitchen paper and sprinkle with Cornish sea salt and serve immediately with the mayonnaise.

Pea and spinach curry

Serves 4

This makes a lovely spring or summer vegetable accompaniment, starter or part of a cold buffet.

400g cooked peas, fresh or frozen
A couple of handfuls of young spinach leaves, washed and dried
60ml of ghee or butter
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp finely grated root ginger
1 green chilli, sliced
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ground turmeric
2tsp ground coriander
Seeds of 6 cardamom pods
¼tsp cayenne pepper
¼tsp ground black pepper
500ml vegetable stock
2tbsp chopped coriander
Salt to taste

Heat the butter or ghee in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the onions for 3-4 minutes until soft, stirring every so often until lightly coloured.

Add the other spices and continue cooking on a low heat for a couple more minutes. Add the stock and salt, cover with water and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the peas and spinach and simmer for another 8-10 minutes, or until the sauce is just coating the vegetables. Stir in the coriander, remove from the heat and serve with basmati rice.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece