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Recipes – fresh garden peas please!

10 July 2009
Recipes – fresh garden peas please!

The season for fresh peas is short and, as chef Madalene Bonvini-Hamel, the founder of British Larder, describes, very sweet. Her favourite recipes ensure they keep all their flavour and colour.

When fresh garden peas appear on market stalls and my home-grown peas are ready to be harvested, it's a wonderful reminder that the British summer is in full swing.

I pick the first couple of swollen pods in secrecy so that I do not have to share them - the crisp, unique flavour to be found inside each pod is unique and delicious.

According to a recent TV programme on growing pea crops in Britain, farmers collaborate to harvest the peas as soon as they are ripe and their processing takes just a few hours from harvest to blanching and freezing the peas. Months of planning and hard work by farms and food producers brings this humble, yet incredible, vegetable in frozen form to our dining tables.

This is all down to a particular enzyme in peas that affects them once they are harvested. Freshly picked peas taste sweeter and better than those that are just a few days old. For this reason frozen peas are as close as one can get to the real thing unless you have your own kitchen garden. As a matter of fact, peas are very easy to grow as they do not need a very big space and are not prone to disease.

TASTE TEST

There are plenty ways to savour fresh garden peas. One of my favourite recipes is early-Hertfordshire pea and feta crush (www.britishlarder.co.uk). This recipe is made with very tender, fresh peas and so do not require cooking at all - simply lightly crush them with good olive oil, a generous amount of seasoning and a light addition of sumac.

Here are a few more of my favourite recipes using fresh garden peas.

PEA AND SLOW-COOKED HAM TARTS

INGREDIENTS (Serves six)

For the slow-cooked ham

  • 500g raw ham joint, tied
  • 1 large sprig of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

For the short-crust pastry

  • 150g plain flour
  • 80g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 50ml cold water

For the pea cream

  • 200g fresh garden peas, podded
  • 75ml double cream
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 10g grain mustard
  • 3 medium free-range eggs
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Coarse sea salt

To serve

  • Home-made salad cream 1. 6 pea pods, mizuna, lambs lettuce, pea tops
  • Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2tbs mascarpone

Pea and ham tarts
Pea and ham tarts

SLOW-COOKED HAM

Preheat the water bath to 80°C.

Tie the ham with string, place the ham into a clean vacuum bag with the bay leaf and thyme and seal the ham on hard vacuum.

Place the ham in the preheated water bath for 16 hours.

Once the ham is cooked, remove from the bag and flake the ham while it's warm.

Keep refrigerated until needed.

SHORT-CRUST PASTRY

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.

Cut the butter in small pieces and rub the butter to the flour with your fingertips. Add the cold water and use a pallete knife to cut the water into the flour. Work fast but do not overwork the pastry, as it will make it grey and stretchy.

Cover the pastry with cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

On a lightly floured work surface roll the pastry out 3-4mm think and use a 7cm in diameter cutter to cut six rounds.

Turn a muffin tray upside down; line the back of a muffin tray with the pastry rounds to shape the pastry cases. It does look rustic and different from the pristine perfect tarts.

Bake blind for 20 minutes.

While the tart cases are baking, make the pea cream.

PEA CREAM

Rinse the podded peas under cold running water. Blanch the peas for a few minutes in rapid boiling salted water, refresh.

Weigh the peas into the bowl of blender and add the seasoning and lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Add the cream, grain mustard and eggs, blend again until smooth. Pass the pea cream through a fine sieve.

Once the tart cases are cooked, reduce the heat to 120°C.

Turn the muffin tray the right way up and place the tart cases the right way up in their holes. Shred the ham and place a generous amount of ham into each tart case.

Pour the pea cream over the ham, until just under the rim of the pastry.

Place the baking tray with the tarts in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until set.

Test the tarts by gently giving the tray a knock with the back of your hand; it's done if there is still a very slight wobble.

Gently remove the tray from the oven and let the tarts cool on a cooling rack.

PROFESSIONAL TIP

If your tart mixture was slightly aerated and has a white foamy top, run a blow torch flame over the top to blow the bubbles away. This gives your tart a shiny glaze.

SERVING

Use a pastry brush to paint a line of home-made salad cream on to the serving plate. Place the tart on to the plate just off centre of the painted line, garnish with salad leaves such as mizuna, lambs lettuce and pea tops.

Cut a fresh pea pod in half to expose the fat, fresh crispy peas. Drizzle with cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Place a small quenelle of mascarpone on top of the pea and ham tart.

POTTED PIGS' CHEEKS WITH PEA CUSTARD

INGREDIENTS (Serves four)

For the potted pigs' cheeks

  • 280g pigs' cheeks
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt
  • 1 sprig of savory, thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 100g finely diced banana shallots
  • 4tbs chopped chives, chervil and savory

For the pea custard

  • 150g fresh garden peas, podded
  • 150ml white chicken stock
  • 1g agar-agar powder
  • 50ml double cream
  • Freshly cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt
  • 1tsp chopped fresh savory

For the horseradish crèmefraîche

  • 100g crème fraîche
  • 5g freshly finely grated horseradish
  • Coarse sea salt

To serve

  • 6 whole pea pods and pea tops
  • Chervil
  • 4 round red radishes
  • Micro cress
  • Shards of dried bread

Pig's cheeks with pea custard
Pig's cheeks with pea custard

POTTED PIG'S CHEEKS

Preheat the water bath to 82°C.

Remove any excess fat, skin or sinew from the cheeks. Wash them under cold running water and pat dry. Season the cheeks with freshly cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Place the cheeks along with a lightly bruised garlic clove, cloves, 30ml extra virgin olive oil, sprig of savory, thyme and bay leaf in a clean vacuum bag. Seal on hard vacuum.

Cook the cheeks in the preheated water bath for 12 hours.

Once the cheeks are cooked, remove them from the bag. Pass the rendered juices through a fine sieve or muslin cloth and flake the meat.

Heat a non-stick sauté pan with the rest of the oil and banana shallots and season lightly. Sauté the shallots until they start to turn transparent, add the flaked meat and the cooking liquid. Gently simmer over low heat until the liquid reduces to a sticky glaze.

Check the seasoning and fold in a generous amount of chopped herbs such as chervil, chives and savory.

Fill four 150ml glass jars halfway with the meat and place the pots on a tray in position for the pea custard.

PEA CUSTARD

Pod and rinse the peas. Blanch them in a pan of salted rapid boiling water, until al dente, refresh in iced water.

Place the chilled blanched peas in a high power blender along with seasoning and savory, blend to a fine purée.

Bring the stock and cream to the boil and add the agar-agar, stir and boil for two minutes.

Pour the hot stock and cream over the crushed peas, blend for a minute and pass the pea custard through a fine sieve into a jug.

Immediately pour the custard on to the potted pigs' cheeks.

Let the custard set, then place the tray in the fridge to cool completely, about one hour. Do not disturb the custard before it sets as agitation could prevent the custard setting.

HORSERADISH CREME FRAICHE

Mix the crème fraîche with the finely grated horseradish and season to taste.

SERVING

Remove the pots from the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving to come to room temperature.

Wash the pea pods and slice them in half lengthways. Wash the radishes and slice them into thin slices on a mandolin.

Use a pastry brush to paint a line of the horseradish crème fraîche on to the slate, arrange the pea pods and tops, micro cress and sliced radishes and shards of dried bread. Place the potted cheeks on one end garnished with peas and micro cress.

CHILLED PEA SOUP WITH PARMESAN CREAM AND SOFT-BOILED GULL'S EGGS

INGREDIENTS (Serves four)

For the chilled pea soup

  • 300g fresh garden peas, podded
  • 1 large banana shallot
  • 50ml vermouth
  • 30g butter
  • 300ml vegetable or white chicken stock
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1 sprig of flowering thyme
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Coarse sea salt

For the Parmesan espuma

  • 50g flour
  • 50g butter
  • 400ml full fat milk
  • 20g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 60ml double cream
  • 150ml vegetable stock or nage
  • Coarse sea salt

To serve

  • 4tbs blanched fresh garden peas
  • 2 soft-boiled gulls' eggs, cut in half and seasoned
  • Pea tops
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Selection of edible flowers such as thyme, nasturtium and mizuna flowers

Chilled pea soup
Chilled pea soup

CHILLED PEA SOUP

Wash the podded peas and drain in a colander and bring the stock to the boil.

Peel and slice the banana shallot finely. Heat a large saucepan with the butter and sweat the shallot until tender with no colour, add the peas, thyme and seasoning, cook for a couple of minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the vermouth; add the boiling stock and cream and bring the stock back to the boil. Cook for a few minutes, test if the peas are tender.

Once the peas are cooked, purée the soup in a blender as quickly as possible and pass through a fine sieve over ice to chill the soup rapidly.

Work fast to keep the bright green colour.

PARMESAN ESPUMA

In a medium saucepan melt the butter, add the flour to make a roux, add seasoning.

In a separate saucepan bring the milk and stock to the boil; add ladles of boiling milk-stock one at a time to the cooked roux. Stir well after each addition to secure a smooth sauce. Add the rest of the milk and cook the sauce for six minutes over a moderate heat.

Add the grated Parmesan cheese to the double cream and blend.

Pass the Parmesan cream through a fine sieve and pour into a cream whipper, charge with two pellets, shake vigorously and let the espuma chill over ice.

PROFESSIONAL TIP FOR THERMOMIX USERS

To cook the Parmesan espuma in the Thermomix, first grind the Parmesan, drop the chunks of cheese on to running blades at speed 10 for 20 seconds, pour the ground cheese into a small bowl. Place the butter, stock, flour, milk and seasoning in to the Thermomix bowl. Set the timer for six minutes at 90e_SDgrC speed 4. Once done, add the cream and cheese turn the speed dial to 10 for 10 seconds.

Pass the Parmesan cream through a fine sieve and pour into a cream whipper, charge with two pellets, shake vigorously and let the espuma chill over ice.

While the soup and Parmesan espuma chill, boil two gulls' eggs for four minutes.

Peel the soft-boiled gulls' eggs, cut them in half and season with freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt.

SERVING

Lightly crush the blanched peas with a fork, season with freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt and add a drop or two of the olive oil. Divide the peas between the four soup bowls, carefully place the halved soft-boiled gulls' egg on top of the pile of crushed peas slightly off centre.

Pour the soup around the egg, shake the Parmesan espuma vigorously and squirt it next to the gulls' egg. Garnish with the flowers, pea tops, finely grated Parmesan cheese and a few drops of olive oil.

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