Time for Peas

I’ve been a little slack in getting the allotment back online after its winter break, so as the weather warms up and there are glimpses of spring-like weather its about time I got something in the ground. One of the pleasures of having an allotment is the fact that you can grow your own beans and peas. There is little in life better than shelling a basket of home grown peas (perhaps eating them pod as you pick them I suppose), and with this thought in mind I have set about preparing ground for this year’s peas, as well as sowing some in trays in the greenhouse.Pea Pods shelled of peasPeas sing of freshness and, as mentioned, there is nothing better than eating them super fresh from the pod on the allotment. However, this is not possible all year, and here we can rely on frozen peas. Frozen peas are frozen within a few hours of picking, so will almost always be sweeter than those bought in the grocers, as the sugars in the peas start to turn to starch as soon as they have been picked.

With a longing for the freshness of peas, and a reminder of why I was planting out the shrivelled peas on a cold day at the allotment, a pea soup was required. Pea soup on its own is a lovely thing, but for me pea and ham is a superior combination.

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You will need
knob of butter
2 spring onions, finely chopped
500g frozen peas
1 litre stock (I used vegetable, but for the best pea and ham soup, ham or pork stock is best)
Small handful of fresh mint
300g ham, sliced and diced

Melt the butter in a thick bottomed saucepan and as it starts to froth add the spring onions. Slowly cook the onions until they turn translucent and release their sweet allium flavour, before adding the frozen peas. Stir, and cook for a few minutes, before pouring in the stock and bringing to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the mint and blitz until smooth. To achieve a truly silken soup, I like to sieve the pureed soup once it is a little cooler. Once you’ve achieved the texture you want, add the ham and season accordingly.

Chilled Lettuce and Pea Pod Soup for Plot 22

We have been able to pick the first of our peas recently and enjoyed them as part of a broad bean and pea pasta dish. When I visited the local community allotment, Plot 22, earlier I noticed how well their peas were growing. So when asked by Emma to write something for their site I had to do something based on peas; well, based on pea pods actually.Pea Pods shelled of peas
Check out the rest of the post and the recipe I wrote for them below.

Chilled Pea Pod and Lettuce Soup
The process of picking and then podding peas is such a great one. It almost forces you to sit at the kitchen table and take time to pop out the sweet green orbs, occasionally failing to resist the temptation to eat a stray pea. However satisfying this is, you’re always left with a mountain of fresh pea pods[…]

April at Plot 4

March has been a bit of a mixed bag at the allotment. We’ve had barmy, sunny, spring days; but also frost nipping at the young shoots of growth. I’ve started sowing then had to wrap things up as it became colder and colder. Its been a stop start spring. All this has meant that I’ve not really got myself sorted in terms of planning where I will plant everything, and even now I’m a bit behind the digging. On the plus side, after 9 years of having the allotment I have finally finished creating a fence around it all. The wonderful and free resource that is pallets has been my supporter in this task, and I’ve even used pallets to create a vertical salad planter.

The plot is still producing, though only a few of the vegetables from last year are ready for harvest at the moment. There is still Swiss chard of course, and we’ve used the last of the root vegetable supply recently to make some super delicious Homemade Root Vegetable Crisps. Perhaps the star of the show has been the increasingly frequent emergence of the ‘Allotment Salad’ on our plates. Its been a delight to sit down at lunch (once or twice outside even) to a vibrant salad of fresh leaves from the allotment. Teamed with a mustard dressing, they have really given this month a lift and convinced us it really is spring.

As I mentioned above I’ve been sowing with earnest and the tomatoes in particular are really developing well; they’ve been pricked out to one plant per module and I’m looking forward to potting them on during the month ahead.  I’ve already sown a few peas, but the majority of them have been snaffled by some small rodent visitors to the greenhouse. I decided to grow them in the greenhouse in order to avoid mice digging them up outside, but it seems I’ve been thwarted and they have followed the seeds into the glazed warmth. Not to be deterred, I’ll re-sow this month; and will do so in raised lengths of guttering to add a further obstacle into the path of my rodent friends. Whilst at the fabulous Weald Allotment shop I picked up some new 6ft tall climbing peas (a heritage variety called Telephone) to give a go. It will be interesting to see if we get many of the harvest peas home this year, they’re usually grabbed and devoured at the plot by the family before they get a chance to be put in the pot. April is also the time to start to sow winter squashes. They’re hungry crops, so need a good amount of manure and other organic matter to be put on the bed before they’re planted out later in the year. We’re going to sow Crown Prince again this year; but also a couple of Italian varieties, Pumpkin Marina di Chioggia and Pumpkin Padana. This selection should keep us going into the winter months. What winter squashes do you grow?

One of the big jobs last month was to finish the fence around the plot, but it does leave me with the task of painting it and also tying in the blackberry so that it is easily managed when the fruits form in the months to come. One of the last construction jobs to do is to create another cover to prevent birds eating the brassicas. I’ve got some old blue piping and I’m going to be constructing a hooped design to hang netting on. Hopefully the birds will then not compete with the mice for the amount of crops they can eat! As the soil warms up, so do the weeds and so one of the big jobs over the next few weeks is to give the plot a good weed and try to keep on top of those perennials which I don’t really want reappearing. The potatoes will go in to, although I think I’ll wait until the end of April for the majority of them, planting them in 15cm deep trenches about 5-6cm apart.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.

 

Cod Cheeks, Jerusalem Artichoke Purée and Braised Peas

I got the fabulous Polpo cookbook for Christmas and spent the festive period drooling over the delicious dishes within it. One of the dishes I immediately took a fancy to was the Cod Cheeks, Lentils and Salsa Verde. Having never had cod cheeks, but being a fan of the Italian braised lentils the recipe is accompanied by, I set about finding some cod cheeks to give it a go. My local fishmonger (Fish on Shoreham harbour) stocked them frozen, as the demand is not high enough to warrant being on the slab every day. Easily cooked in a few minutes and relatively cheap, they’re one of those foods (like the ox cheek and breast of lamb) that are not used enough. In the Polpo dish, the sweet flesh of the cheeks contrasts beautifully with the acidity of the salsa verde.

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With things firmly in the ‘hungry gap’ at the allotment, one of the only crops I’m harvesting is Jerusalem artichokes. They make a beautiful cream coloured purée, which is a great accompaniment to white fish or sweet scallops. So the other day I combined the cod cheeks and the artichoke purée for a early spring supper.

You will need (serves 2)
For the Jerusalem artichoke purée
200g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and chopped
water, to cover
30g butter
20ml double cream
A little lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the braised peas
Half an onion chopped
3 rashers streaky smoked bacon, chopped
100g frozen peas

For the cod cheeks and salsa verde
Parsley, mint and basil leaves (a small handful of each)
1/2 tbsp. each of capers and gherkins
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 anchovy
Enough olive oil to bring the salsa verde together into a pourable sauce
250g cod cheeks, cleaned of small pieces of bone
Chopped clove of garlic

For the Jerusalem artichoke purée, bring the Jerusalem artichokes to the boil in a saucepan and simmer until tender, then drain and allow to cool. Whizz the Jerusalem artichokes into a food processor with the butter, cream and lemon juice to make a smooth purée. When ready to serve, season the purée and heat gently to warm through.

To make the braised peas, heat a little olive oil in a shallow saucepan, then cook the chopped onion and bacon for 8 – 10 minutes until the onion turns golden and the pancetta is brown but not crisp. Turn the heat down, add the peas to the pan, then cover and braise for 5 mins until peas are tender. Add a dash of lemon juice, seasoning and a bit more olive oil, if necessary.

The salsa verde is simple to prepare. Finely chop the herbs, gherkins, capers and anchovy using a sharp knife and combine with the mustard and enough oil to make a pourable sauce. Put to one side for the flavours to mingle and mature. Season the cod cheeks with salt and pepper and fry in a little olive oil for 2 minutes on each side. In the last minute, add the chopped garlic and a little lemon juice.

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To serve, place a spoonful of artichoke purée onto each plate and smear a little across the plate. Top with the cod cheeks, followed by a drizzle of salsa verde. Scatter the braised peas around the plate.

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This post has been entered into Delicieux & Eat Your Veg March Four Seasons Food Challenge.

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