English food doesn’t have the best reputation in France but this doesn’t prevent a curious fascination with what passes for food Outre-Manche. In particular I recall my old French friends gazing in wonder at the humble British pea, captivated by what they called les petits pois verts fluos (fluorescent green peas). It had never occurred to me that the Brits might have souped up the colour of peas, but it’s true that their French equivalents are far more sombre in appearance. They are also often cooked with lardons (little bits of fatty bacon) which go unannounced on restaurant menus and reveal the inner contempt that French chefs have for vegetarians.
There are a number of variables that influence the British public’s food purchasing habits, with quality of food running a poor third to how cheap something is (‘look, these beans are only 7 pence!’) and more importantly how much fun it is. Adding fun to food will always make us pay more attention. Ask any of your British friends about Cheesy Peas as invented by the Fast Show and I’ll bet they secretly wish they were real…
So it’s no wonder that when it comes to peas we’ll always choose the brightest of the bright green ones because they make us feel happy just looking at them. The best peas of all are, of course, Mushy Peas (pronounced mashy if you are from the South, mooshy if you hail from the North).
Mushy Peas are unique in that they sit comfortably within both of English cooking’s most famous dishes: fish and chips and the Sunday Roast. Yorkshire Puddings filled with mushy peas and gravy are a real treat, whilst there isn’t a piece of battered haddock on the planet that cannot be made tastier with the addition of a polystyrene tub of mushy peas ladled fresh from a chip shop bain-marie. The truth is that any meal can be enhanced with a bit of mushy pea action and here, dear reader, is how you do it:
Purée de petits pois [verte fluoe] – Fluorescent Green Mushy Peas
You Will Need:
1 x tin of Mushy Peas (sometimes referred to as ‘Chip Shop style’)
1 x tin opener
1 x small saucepan
Some form of cooking device (I’m going to be using an electric hob, but you may want to use gas. I’m sure you could use a microwave too, but we don’t have one).
Step 1: Open tin of mushy peas with a tin opener. All good? Let’s move on…
Step 2: Tip peas into small saucepan. They don’t make a dedicated pea-pan sadly, unless you count bedpans. Technically they would be pee-pans, so don’t count. That said they should never be brought into the kitchen environment (unless someone is in the loo and you’re desperate in which case go ahead but please clean the sink at some point afterwards)
Step 3: turn on your hob to a ‘medium’ heat. I’m not sure what this is specifically in Celsius or Fahrenheit – it’s basically not so hot that everything bubbles straight away and not so cold that this takes hours… Your already mushy peas will become mushier.
Step 4: Pour and serve. Mushy peas basically go hand-in-oven-glove with all potato products, so don’t be afraid of spuddy experimentation. They also compliment most battered and crumbed fish products very well. Normally I’d have a fish finger or five with my peas, but here I’ve gone a bit posh to show off and had fish cakes. La di da me. Note molten lava-flow effect as a serving suggestion.
And there you have it. Bon appétit kids as they say round our way. Keep a look out for more Mint Custard English Cooking in future posts.