Friday, November 17, 2006

Buttered peas with crunchy bacon

Peas are, apparently, the preferred vegetable of the picky eater brigade. I was reminded of this recently when some colleagues came over for dinner and I asked them if there was anything they wouldn't eat; one of them said no seafood, no fish, no green vegetables (except peas), amongst other things in a list too long to recall here. She seemed to take it for granted that I would understand that peas were an acceptable green vegetable, which I found odd because in my picky-eater days, peas didn't really feature on my food radar. I didn't dislike them as such; I just found them profoundly dull, and I suppose I still do, although now I always keep a bag of frozen peas in the house to add to curries or pasta dishes or, occasionally fishcakes, or as an emergency if the fresh vegetables need to be eked out. The problem, I think, is that frozen peas don't have a lot of taste on their own; they are (to my mind) almost pointless when served with a plain piece of meat or fish, but they go very well indeed with shepherds pie and other dishes with sauce because their sweetness seems to cut through rich sauces.

Jamie has several ideas for serving peas in Cook with Jamie. It is worth pausing to describe his vegetable chapter - I think that it is the best vegetable chapter of any cookery book I've ever bought (I suppose I should except Jane Grigson's Vegetable book, but then the whole book is devoted to vegetables, which is probably cheating). I've noticed a tendency in cookery writers to include an impressive array of meat recipes and fish/seafood recipes, as well as, say, pasta, and a token few incredibly complex layered vegetarian dishes, but to skip vegetable side dishes altogether. Where they do figure, the vegetables seem for some reason to be laden with cream or overpowering sauces, which means that they take over the whole dish and can only be served with the plainest of white fish or chicken fillet. When I entertain, I tend to make curries at least partly because I don't have to mess about steaming some veg, boiling others, roasting others, at the last minute, and so that I don't have to worry about whether steamed broccoli or wilted spinach, like we have on an almost daily basis, are too boring for words. I need a wider side-vegetable repertoire, and Cook with Jamie offers just that.

I have already tried the rosemary roasted potatoes; the braised white cabbage with bacon; the broccoli with soy and ginger; dinner lady carrots; Savoy cabbage with Worcestershire sauce (and maybe more). Yesterday I had decided we needed to eat fish, so we had hake fillets dusted in seasoned flour and fried, with carrot puree (I love any sort of mashed root veg, and carrots, sweet potatoes and squash have such fabulous colour) and with one of Jamie's pea recipes: buttered peas with crunchy bacon. These are simplicity itself: cook the peas in boiling water for 3-4 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, fry thinly sliced rashers of smoked streaky bacon (I admit I used pancetta...) until golden and crisp, then remove to a dish and keep the pan with its bacony juices. Drain the peas, reserving a little of their cooking water, and add them to the pan that the bacon was cooked in, with a knob of butter, a squeeze of lemon juice and some seasoning; add a glug of cooking water to coat the peas. Serve with the bacon bits scattered over.

These peas were absolutely delicious - I could have eaten a huge bowl of them for dinner on their own! They didn't overpower the hake; instead, they added flavour and oomph to the whole dinner. Jamie suggests that as well as a side dish, they could be added to pasta dishes or risottos - the thought makes my mouth water. Like the broccoli with soy and ginger, this take on a humble vegetable (and a frozen vegetable here, to boot) is fantastically tasty and simple; it could even become addictive.


Anonymous said...

Wow. You have a hunger-inducing blog! I find your posts both wonderfully informative and delightfully entertaining. Keep at it! Have a great weekend! =)

charlotte said...

I came here via your good friend Litlove, and so good did the peas and bacon look that I instantly included it in our supper and made three children and a husband very happy! Thanks, and I do love your blog.

Redhead said...

Do you have "The Cranks bible"? Easily my fave vegetarian cookbook - and you won't notice it's vegetarian! If you are looking out for more vegetable ideas/ vegetarian dishes, I can really vouch for this book. I