I'm a bit of an Anglophile. I love Britain. I love British weather, British people, the accents, the Royal family, the Unionjack, the Tube, all of it. And I love British food. Perhaps my love of all things British comes from the same place my freckles, pale skin, light eyes, and curly hair do: My Irish, Scottish, and Welsh family roots. We're a bunch of sturdy, pale, freckled, curly headed people, my family. (Well, on one side. On the other side we're a bunch of sturdy, not-QUITE-as-pale, curly headed Black Irish, with fewer freckles.)
British food gets a bad rap, but I don't think that's entirely deserved. In fact, I already have an entire post with many of my favorite highlights planned to coincide with the start of the upcoming London Summer Olympics, as I'm embarassingly excited for them (Summer Olympics, which are the Best Olympics, and in LONDON!). But in the meantime I'd be remiss not to mention the Queen's recent Diamond Jubilee, glued as I was to the coverage of the festivities, the flotilla, the concert, and whatever flawless sartorial choice the Duchess of Cambridge had shown up in.
Fun fact: My favorite nickname for Wills and Kate, aka William and Catherine, aka The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is, wait for it, Bill and Cathy Cambridge. HAHAHA. Kills me every time.
(AHHHHAHAHHAAHAHAHAA Bill and Cathy Cambridge.)
Zach and I are lucky enough to have some wonderful British friends (Hi Bridget and Adrian!) who love food just as much than we do. (If not more. I mean, I thought we had an impressive cookbook collection; then we saw theirs.) We've all been lucky to visit each other 'across the pond' a few times in the last several years. Their knowledge of American culture, history, and politics rivals that of many Americans I know, and they've been incredibly patient and willing teachers when it's come to our many questions about Britain in return.
When Bridget and Adrian visited us this past fall they brought with them a veritable buffet of British deliciousness, including many of our favorite treats, because they are incredibly generous and thoughtful like that. One of the highlights, though, was this book by the "Julia Child of Ireland," which we hadn't heard of.
When I first cracked this book, it opened right to page 396-397. On one side I oohed over a recipe for melted chard stalks with bacon and hazlenuts. On the other side I aahed over a recipe for Mushy Peas with Mint. British with a twist! How neat! (And it also reminded me of a Top Chef debacle over missing pea puree!)
Fast forward several months to a Sunday afternoon where Zach and I are playing our favorite game: "What Should We Do For Dinner?" Lately we've been into doing quasi fancy Sunday dinners, mostly as an excuse to try out a new wine. We had a rack of lamb in the freezer that we'd been meaning to use, and started brainstorming ideas around that. Lamb makes me think of mint jelly (yuck) which made me think of the minted pea puree I'd been wanting to try (yum). Luckily the lamb was wedged next to a bag of frozen peas. And voila, a dinner menu was born.
Zach made a few simple modifcations, but even so it's a very simple recipe. You're basically boiling some peas with seasoning and blending them up, which doesn't sound appealing, at all, oh but trust me.
I'm calling this minted pea puree because rather than mashing these, Zach used our immersion/stick blender to smooth them out. I really think I prefer the texture of a puree over mashed peas. Just think of the skins! Just lingering in there waiting to stick to your teeth! He used some leftover stock in place of water and also sauteed some shallots and threw those in ("Frenching it up" he says). The flavor of this was just so good, and it went perfectly with the lamb but I think it would be good with just about anything. It's somewhre between a sauce and a vegetable side, and the flavor is simple but layered: just when you think it's straightforward or one-note, you taste something else. What's more, it can be made with ingredients you probably have on hand, but it sounds and looks fancy. That's the best kind of dish, no?
Have you made pea puree before? Or mushy peas?
Darina Allen's Mushy Peas with Mint
1 lb. fresh or frozen peas
salt, freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons chopped mint
Bring 1 cup of water (or stock, as Zach did) to a fast, rolling boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, toss in the peas, stir. (If you're adding sauteed shallots, do so here.)
Cover the saucepan, bring back to a boil on high heat. Uncover and cook for 4-5 minutes. Drain, but save some of the cooking liquid. Add butter, salt, and freshly ground black pepper and a good pinch of sugar to the peas. Pulse in a food processor or mash with a potato masher, adding some of the cooking liquid if necessary. Add freshly chopped mint. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve with "fish and chips." (Or lamb and roasted potatoes!)