IT'S THE WEEKEND: Food and drink - Recipes to salute the humble British pea

First published in News by

There's so much you can do with the humble British pea, as HAYLEY MILLS discovers.

THE British Growers Association are keen to promote peas as a versatile vegetable that can be used in a variety of recipes and despite being small, they pack a good vitamin punch.

The association has set up the website Yes Peas to share a range of recipes to keep the humble pea on Britain’s dining tables.

The UK is the largest producer of peas for freezing in Europe, as the country has a unique East facing seaboard which is ideally suited to pea production.

Peas enjoy temperatures of 13 -18C so they are well suited to the UK climate and can be sown outdoors from March to June.

Early varieties can be harvested 11-12 weeks from sowing while the main crop need 13- 15 weeks.

The pods at the bottom of each plant will mature first so begin harvesting from low down and work your way up as the pods mature.

On average everyone in Britain eats nearly 9,000 peas per year, with 35,000 hectares of peas grown in the UK each year, equivalent to about 70,000 football pitches.

This produces about 160,000 tonnes of frozen peas - that's two billion 80 gram portions.

Peas are thought to have originated in Middle Asia and the central plateau of Ethiopia.

The oldest pea ever found was nearly 3,000 years old and discovered on the border of Burma and Thailand.

Peas were known to the Greeks and Romans (the Romans grew 37 different varieties at one point) and these early types were first mentioned in England after the Norman conquest.

In the time of Elizabeth I (1533-1603) who reigned from 1558, peas were imported from Holland and were considered a great delicacy because they were so expensive.

Fresh peas became popular in the 18th century when improved varieties were developed by English plant breeders, and the world's first sweet tasting pea was developed during this time by amateur plant breeder Thomas Edward Knight of Downton, near Salisbury.

The Italians are credited with breeding what became known as piselli novelli or new peas, the small peas most of us today call petits pois.

Peas are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, thiamine (B1), iron and phosphorus.

As pulses, they are rich in protein, carbohydrate and fibre and low in fat which is mostly of the unsaturated kind. Half a cup of frozen peas has only 5% of the daily value for sodium and foods that are low in sodium are good for your heart.

An 85 gram serving of peas, cooked, provides 50 calories, 4 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbohydrate (of which 3.5 grams are sugars), 3.8 grams of fibre, 17mg of vitamin C (28% of the recommended daily allowance) and 0.2mg Thiamine (B1) (15% of the recommended daily allowance).

A cooking tip is that the less water you use when cooking peas, the less vitamin C is lost and steaming also helps to conserve this vitamin.

Just one serving of freshly frozen garden peas and petits pois contains as much vitamin C as two large apples, more fibre than a slice of wholemeal bread and more thiamine than a pint of whole milk.

Award-winning chef Rachel Green is the Yes Peas ambassador and creates a range of recipes that are shared online and are available in a free recipe book available on the website, www.peas.org

She said: ““Peas are just about the most versatile vegetable in the world. Great in risotto, curries, pasta, soups and casseroles.

“They are sweet and nutritious and there is absolutely no preparation needed.”

Recipes

Pea, Ham and Egg Empanadillas

Makes 12-15

2 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped

25g chopped green olives

50g peas, thawed and drained

50g finely chopped ham

50g grated cheddar or manchego

1-2 tsp mayonnaise, to bind

2 sheets ready rolled puff pastry

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Method:

Preheat oven to 220°c/425°f/Gas 7

Lightly grease two baking sheets. Combine the eggs, olives, peas, ham and cheese together with a little mayonnaise to bind and season with black pepper. Cut the puff pastry into 10cm (4”) circles. Spoon a little of the mixture into the centre of each round and fold over the pastry to enclose the filling and crimp the edges to seal. Place the parcels on the trays 2cm apart.

Brush with the egg yolk and bake for 10-15 minutes or until brown and puffed.

Tip: Serve hot with a tomato relish

Per empanadilla: 206kcal, 13.9g fat, 6.4g saturates, 0.7g sugar,0.7g salt

Spanish Potatoes with Chorizo and Peas

Serves 4

4 good-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

150g diced cooking chorizo

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tsp smoked paprika

A good pinch of chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

400g can plum tomatoes

150g peas

Squeeze lemon juice

Chopped parsley

Sea salt and black pepper

Method:

Place you potatoes in a pan of boiling salted water. Cook until just tender. Drain and cool a little. Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil. Add onions and chorizo and potatoes, season with sea salt and black pepper. Cook until the onions are soft and the potatoes start to brown a little, and then add the garlic, paprika, chilli powder, cumin and tomatoes. Cook until the potatoes are completely cooked and the tomatoes have thickened. Then add the peas and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice; taste and season again, finish with chopped parsley.

Tip: To make it more substantial, serve with a poached egg

Per serving: 360kcal, 15.4g fat, 4.5g saturates, 6.9g sugar, 0.8g salt

Pork and Pea Meatballs

Serves 4 – 6

3 tbsp olive oil

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

2 tbsp medium sherry

500g minced lean pork

50g breadcrumbs

1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1 egg yolk

1 tsp dried oregano

Sea salt and black pepper

150g peas

Tomato Sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika

1 roasted red pepper, peeled and blitzed

400g can chopped tomatoes

100ml vegetable stock or white wine

Method:

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy based frying pan and gently soften the shallots, add the paprika, garlic, chilli and sherry and bubble for a few minutes.

In a large bowl mix the pork and breadcrumbs together with the parsley, egg yolk, oregano and season with sea salt and black pepper. Add the cooked shallots and peas, mix well and shape into little meatballs (approximately 12-14).

In a new pan brown the meatballs all over in the remaining oil for about 5 minutes, set aside.

To make the tomato sauce, add the oil, garlic, cumin, paprika and the stock or wine and bring to the boil. Add the tomatoes and blitzed pepper. Mix well and season. Add the meatballs and simmer very gently for 8-10 minutes.

Serve the meatballs with the other tapas or as a main meal.

Per serving: 447kcal, 27.1g fat, 6.8g saturates, 7.8g sugar, 1g salt

Peas on Toast

Makes 8 slices

8 slices French bread, around 1inch thickness

2 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed slightly

Sea salt

2 tbsp basil pesto

300g frozen peas, thawed and drained

A handful crushed mint leaves

1 tbsp half fat crème fraiche (optional)

Squeeze lemon juice

100g feta cheese

Black pepper

Paprika or cayenne pepper for decorating

Method:

Brush the bread with the olive oil, and then rub with the garlic and sea salt.

Preheat a griddle or frying pan until very hot and then add the slices of bread in batches and toast well on both sides. Spread a little pesto on each bruschetta. Using either a pestle and mortar or a food processor (crush or pulse) the peas, mint, crème fraiche (if using), add a squeeze of lemon juice and stir in most of the feta cheese and season with sea salt and black pepper.

The pea mixture does not want to be completely smooth, it should have some texture.

Spoon the mixture onto the bruschetta, top with the remaining crumbled feta cheese and sprinkle with a little paprika or cayenne pepper.

Tip: This mixture is also lovely spooned over pan-fried chicken or salmon or used as a dip for crudities

Per slice: 151kcal, 7.7g fat, 2.5g saturates, 1.9g sugar, 1g salt

Pea and Prawn Laksa

Serves 4

For the spice paste:

1 red chilli, roughly chopped (remove the seeds if you don’t want it so hot!)

1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and roughly chopped

Juice and zest of 1 lime

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp soft brown sugar

1 small bunch coriander

½ tsp ground coriander

2.5cm fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

For the Laksa:

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 x 400ml can coconut milk

200ml vegetable stock

150g fine rice noodles

15 small tiger prawns, peeled (can use frozen)

200g frozen peas

A handful of fresh chopped mint leaves

Coriander leaves, to garnish

Sea salt and black pepper

Method:

For the spice paste, blend all the spice paste ingredients together in a food processor and set aside.

For the laksa; heat the oil in a wok or a large heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and fry the paste for 3-4 minutes until fragrant, stirring all the time, remove the heat if it is catching on the bottom. Stir in the coconut milk and stock and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile cook the rice noodles in a separate pan according to the packet instructions. Drain well and set aside.

When the laksa is boiling, add the prawns and peas and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the peas and prawns are cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning, stir in the chopped mint.

Place the noodles at the bottom of the serving bowls and ladle the laksa over the top.

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve

Per serving: 471 cals, 27.2g fat, 16.8g saturates, 5.6g sugar, 1.9g salt

Green Pea Hummus Dip

Serves 6

Ingredients

500g frozen peas

3 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tbsp light tahini paste

Juice of 1 large lemon (add more if preferred)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp olive oil

Chilli powder

Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Add the peas to a pan of boiling water and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain the peas and put in a food processor along with all the other ingredients; mix well until a paste is formed. Season with sea salt and black pepper according to taste. Serve the green pea hummus in a dipping bowl, form a small hole in the centre of the mixture and add a tablespoon of olive oil and lightly dust with chili powder. Serve with Crudites or toasted pitta bread.

Tips: Use the hummus as part of a main meal served with grilled fish or chicken and salad.

Per serving: 135 kcal, 6.3g protein, 8g carbohydrate, 2.3g sugars, 9g fat, 1.3g saturates, 4.9g fibre, 0.1g salt

Pea Ice Cream

Serves 2

Ingredients

Vanilla ice-cream

Honey

Mint

Peas

Method

Good quality vanilla ice-cream, drizzled with mint flavour honey (or honey with fresh mint chopped through it), and topped with blanched peas refreshed in cold water.

Pea facts:

Freshly frozen garden peas and petits pois are frozen within just two and a half-hours of being picked. This locks in all the nutrients, which can be lost at room temperature.

There's nothing added to freshly frozen garden peas: no salt, sugar or water and certainly no other preservatives or additives.

If you threaded every frozen pea produced each year in the UK onto a piece of string you would need 3,900,000 kms of string, which would stretch from the earth to the moon and back more than five times!

The world record for eating peas is held by Janet Harris of Sussex who, in 1984, ate 7175 peas one by one in 60 minutes using chopsticks!

The first peas were frozen by Clarence Birdseye who invented the 'plate froster' to preserve foods in the 1920's and in 1969 the Birds Eye frozen pea commercial was the first TV ad to be broadcast in colour.

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