[image by Fiona Hallinan]
Fresh garden peas, short in season and in shelf life, are an undeniable luxury.
If fresh they’ll be firm and velvet and their color a clear, vibrant green. Try and use them on the same day that you buy them. And if you get hold of some that’ve been picked the same day then they need not even make it back into the kitchen – pluck and gobbling them one by one straight from the pod is a rare joy. Equally, so is boiling them in their pods and serving them with hot butter. Steam will escape into the pod bringing the peas to tenderness and the liquor can be saved as a base for a summer soup. Open up the pods, dip into the butter and nibble.
When the pods begin to deflate and discolour it seems there’s little one can do to save them, they’ll be best left on the shelf. If cravings persist then frozen peas, perhaps the happiest of all frozen veggies, are a perfectly fine alternative. Fresh June and July peas from the pod though, do suggest an insincerity in the uniformity and exaggerated sweetness of frozen peas.
Clam and pea salad
A natural pairing this, given that wild clams will be reappearing on Irish beaches this July. If you’ve picked them yourself they’ll be plenty more gritty than what you’ll find in the fishmongers. Wash and scrub each one and leave under cold running water for ten minutes. Razor clams also will, when encouraged, be poking their heads up and out of the sand this July. They’ll need a couple of minutes more cooking time.
Slice some shallots in half moons as close to paper thin as you can. In a pot big enough for your clams heat some olive oil and fry the shallots until translucent with a couple of sprigs of thyme and some salt. Then add butter and turn up the heat, when the butter is foaming add your clams.
Give the pot a shake and after half a minute pour in a sip or two of white wine, pop on the lid and return to the heat to medium low.
Then cook your peas in boiling, salted water for two minutes and drain.
Melt some butter and add some chopped curly parsley or torn basil, and a grind of pepper. Spoon your clams onto plates, then the peas, then the foaming butter and a frugal squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with some crusty bread.
Spring onion, potato cakes and peas
First start your pea vinaigrette. Cook your peas in a covered pan with olive oil and a few spoonfuls of water, seasoned with salt.
If you’ve made mash the day previous then hold back some of the dry mashed potatoes (no butter or cream) to make your cakes with. Mix your potatoes with a quarter as much flour and season with salt and pepper to taste. On a floured surface pat your mixture into roughly round biscuit shapes – just under an inch in thickness and three in diameter. Best to fry them in dripping rather than butter as butter will burn too easily. Fry them at a medium heat until golden brown and then flip over and pop them into a medium oven for ten minutes.
Try and get hold of the thick spring onions with big bulbs. Stand them bulb down in boiling salted water (enough to just cover the bulb) for one minute, then shock in cold water and dry. Cut in half lengthwise and lubricate with some oil and then season them with salt and pepper. Cook them on a not too fierce grill or griddle until they brown and just begin to blacken in places.
Cook the onions while the cakes are in the oven. Serve alongside each other. Re heat the peas, lightly crush some of them with a spoon, add some chopped curly parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice and some ground black pepper then drizzle over the onions and potatoes.
Tripe, peas and horseradish
Pork or ox tripe are both good, the second lining of the stomach – the ‘honeycomb’ – has a superior flavour and absorbing abilities.
Foreign horseradish can be bought year round in groceries, but July should see it sprouting from local soil.
Bring the tripe to the boil, skim then drain and cool in running cold water, then chop into inch cubes.
In a heavy pan start to slowly fry some quite finely chopped onions, carrot and celery and a bay leaf in olive oil. Season with salt and add some crushed coriander and fennel seeds.
Make a bulging love parcel with something close to basil, mint, parsley, lemon zest, bay leaf and lots of thyme, tied tight together with string. When the onions and their friends are beginning to get mushy and show the first signs of browning stir in the tripe at a high heat and add some dry white wine. When the wines half reduced more than cover with water and a pig’s trotter (ask your butcher to cut it in half lengthwise), add the parcel and bring to the slowest of simmers. It’ll be about an hour and a half to two hours before the tripe is just tender and ready. Just before the tripe has finished cooking steam some peas till tender in water, olive oil and salt. Blitz half of them and stir into the tripe.
The other half crush and mix in some sliced, fried spring onions – this’ll be your garnish with some sliced celery heart and leaf, and lots of freshly grated horseradish.