English garden peas squeezed out of the pod and popped straight into your mouth are a real joy and would also be my preferred choice for cooking with when they are at their best. This is however one of those vegetables that freezes really well, so don’t ignore the frozen product if the fresh ones are not top notch. Certainly for soups, purées and mousses, frozen peas work really well. However, I would still say fresh is best when you can get hold of a quality product.
Like many vegetables, the sugar in peas begins to convert to starch soon after picking, so fresh is definitely the watchword. If they taste good raw they will certainly be good cooked so let your taste buds guide you.
When cooking fresh peas, it is worth the effort of grading them into sizes and I always use equal quantities of salt and sugar in the blanching water. Use around 12g of each to every litre of water and cook at a rapid boil. One minute will usually be plenty, then refresh the peas straight away in iced water and drain as soon as they are cold.
Cooked like this, the peas will keep for a couple of days in the fridge and only take a few seconds to warm through, whether it is in a sauce, pasta dish or risotto. Working this way will ensure the peas retain their flavour and colour.
Pea and white wine soup with fresh goats curd, pea and broad bean risotto or a ragoût of peas and pancetta to serve with scallops are some of my favourite ways to use this delicate summer vegetable. Don’t forget that the pea tops or pea shoots are edible too and can make a great addition to these dishes, gently accentuating the earthy flavour.
PEA, GOATS CHEESE & OREGANO FRITTATA
Serves two as a light lunch
- 1 small onion, finely sliced
- 4 whole free range eggs, beaten
- 60g soft goats cheese
- 1 dsp fresh oregano, chopped
- 75g fresh cooked peas
- Maldon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 25 ml olive oil, for cooking
- Handful of rocket leaves, to serve
Sweat the onion in half of the olive oil and, when tender, add 3/4 of the chopped oregano. Add the peas and pour in the beaten egg. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir the egg mix until it starts to set, then scatter over 50gm of the goats cheese. Put under a hot grill until just set and colouring slightly.
Toss the rocket leaves with the remaining goats cheese and oregano. Dress the salad, and serve with the frittata.