Season: Home grown best in June and July
One very sad but thought-provoking incident happened to me a few years ago. I was buying fresh peas in the pod in a supermarket, and the sixth-former doing a Saturday job on the checkout asked me if I could tell her what they were. Perhaps the positive side of that comment was a kind of affirmation that I really needed to produce my How To Cook books.
Fresh-shelled peas are one of the most delightful vegetables of all – young and tender, they melt in the mouth when cooked and taste wonderful raw. Sure, it takes a bit of time to shell them, but sitting by an open window, or in the garden on a bright summer's day, shelling peas can be wonderful therapy. When they first arrive they're incredibly sweet and tender, but later on they get bigger and have quite a different character and flavour. I like both equally.
Imported Kenyan peas are not quite as good as the summer home-grown peas, but I think we are very fortunate to have them available all year round, and ready-shelled, too.
To cook young, fresh-shelled peas, first remember to buy 8 oz (225 g) in the pod per person. After shelling, pop them in a steamer with some salt and give them 1 minute before you bite one; they shouldn't take any longer than 2 minutes in all. If they are a bit older, they may need 3-4 minutes.
Split peas and bacon make this a hearty, appetising and filling soup for a winter's day. Incidentally it's so-named after the 'peasouper' fogs that embroiled London in earlier times.
This, thankfully, is a Thai recipe that doesn't require all the speciality ingredients that are sometimes so elusive. The list of ingredients seems rather long, but it is made in moments and has a lovely fragrant flavour.
This is a good recipe for slightly older peas, which, in my opinion, sometimes have more texture and flavour than the younger ones. However, if the peas you are using are very young, give them far less cooking time – 8 minutes at the most.
Shelled peas enjoy a brief season in the summer and if you've run out of other ways to use them, try this wonderful summery soup with lettuce, which can be served hot or cold, depending on the weather.
Make the most of summer beans and other vegetables in this gorgeous vegetarian recipe which can be eaten on its own or as an accompaniment. And if the weather is less than kind, you can serve it warm instead of cold as a salad.
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