We've all heard nostalgic stories from chefs who've been inspired to cook by time they spent at nanna's knee podding peas. And while it's a nice picture viewed through rose-coloured glasses, who, we have to ask, bothers podding peas any more?
Although we're normally the first to advocate a "fresh is best" approach, when a frozen ingredient is superior it makes sense to use it. Of course, if you happen to grow peas yourself, nothing beats them straight from the vine (they're so tender and sweet you could probably eat the pods, too), but for most of us that's simply not an option.
Peas have a high sugar content that, once picked, quickly converts to starch, so when you buy peas in the pod, they often have a floury texture. It's a better bet, then, to buy frozen peas, which have been snap-frozen at the source, and retain their sweet flavour and delicate texture. The fact it's a more convenient option is simply a bonus and means you have the fresh flavour of spring at your fingertips all year round.
Pea, leek and chorizo frittata
Serves 4 (pictured)
Preheat oven to 180C. Heat 50ml olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium heat, add 2 thinly sliced leeks and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and stir occasionally until tender (3-4 minutes). Add 2 thickly sliced chorizo and stir to colour slightly (1-2 minutes). Lightly whisk 8 eggs in a bowl, add a generous handful each of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley and mint, season to taste, stir to combine and add to pan. Add 120gm defrosted frozen peas and 60gm coarsely crumbled Manchego. Bake until just set (20-25 minutes) and serve hot with lemon wedges.
Pea and fennel soup
Heat 40ml olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add 1 thinly sliced onion, 2 thinly sliced baby fennel bulbs and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and stir occasionally until very tender (8-10 minutes). Add 1 litre chicken stock and bring to the boil. Add 1kg frozen peas, season to taste and return to the boil. Add 1 cup firmly packed baby spinach and ½ cup firmly packed mint, stir to wilt, remove from heat and purée with a hand-held blender. Add juice of 1 lemon, or to taste. Serve hot scattered with marinated feta.
Pea, lemon and ricotta spaghetti
Cook 350gm dried spaghetti in a large saucepan of well-salted boiling water until al dente, adding 180gm frozen peas in the last minute of cooking (5-6 minutes). Drain, reserving 2 tbsp cooking water, then return pasta and reserved cooking water to pan. Meanwhile, heat 50ml olive oil in a separate saucepan, add ½ thinly sliced Spanish onion, 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and 1 tsp dried chilli flakes and stir occasionally until tender (4-5 minutes). Add finely grated rind and juice of 2 lemons, a generous handful of coarsely chopped mint. Toss through spaghetti with plenty of finely grated parmesan, season to taste and serve hot topped with crumbled firm ricotta.
Serves 4 as a side
Heat 20gm butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add 3 thinly sliced golden shallots and 1 finely chopped garlic clove and stir occasionally until tender (3-4 minutes). Add 300ml chicken stock, reduce by half, then add 400gm defrosted frozen peas. Bring to the boil, season to taste, then process in a food processor with 50gm diced butter. Serve hot with roast chicken or lamb.