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Sweet Pea!



 The taste and texture of fresh peas has almost been forgotten in these times of convenience and frozen foods. Most people can’t even remember the last time they tasted sweet, fresh peas straight from the pod and rely solely on the frozen or, worse still, the tinned ones that sit in a fowl-smelling, cloudy liquid. I’m a big fan of fresh peas and early spring is the best time to use them.
OK, I know it’s a fiddly, time consuming job to shell them, but the difference is enormous and they are definitely worth all the effort!
Fresh peas are high vitamin C and are a good source of fibre and phosphorus making them good energy foods. They are wonderful braised with lettuce, stirred into pasta carbonara or cous cous. They make perfect partners for fish or meat. Cook them with almonds, artichokes, fennel, mushrooms or baby onions; flavour them with mint, rosemary, sage, savoury or thyme.

My favourite risotto has to be pea and smoked bacon. It has a wonderfully robust flavour that is hard to beat. Peas also make for a great soup and it can also be served hot or cold. You can flavour the soup with mint or rosemary but I normally flavour mine with fresh lemongrass. It adds a little lift and an amazing aroma to the finished soup.
  

FRESH PEA AND SMOKED BACON RISOTTO

Ingredients:            Serves 4

300g risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano)
1.5litres chicken stock
250g frozen peas
2 Medium onions (finely chopped)
2 Garlic cloves (crushed)
1tspn Fresh thyme
100g smoked bacon lardons
100g butter
75g freshly grated Parmesan
1tbsp Mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp Olive oil
200g fresh peas (cooked and shelled)
Seasoning


Bring the chicken stock and frozen peas to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Place in a liquidizer and blend to a puree. Pass through a fine sieve and season to taste.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the smoked bacon, chopped onion, crushed garlic and fresh thyme. Cook gently and allow the onion to soften without colouring. Add the rice and stir to coat well. Increase the heat and add a large ladleful of pea stock. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add more stock and continue to stir until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice has softened. Add the fresh peas, mascarpone and season to taste. Stir in the olive oil, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and you risotto is ready to serve.
 


SPRING PEA & GORGONZOLA CROSTINI WITH PARMA HAM



Ingredients                        serves 4


Ingredients Serves 4

8 slices of rustic bread, (Baguette or ciabatta) toasted
125g frozen peas
125g Gorgonzola cheese
1tbsp cream cheese
2tbsp olive oil
8 thin slices of Parma ham
Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Place the peas, Gorgonzola cheese, cream cheese and olive oil in a food processor and blend to combine. Season with sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Spread the bread slices with the Gorgonzola mixture and top each slice with Parma ham. Serve immediately.
  

BAKED COD IN A SAFFRON CRUST 
WITH A LIGHT GREEN PEA & LEMONGRASS SOUP


Ingredients:            Serves 4

4 thick fillets of cod, 200g each
100g pine nuts
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
a good pinch of saffron           
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
Combine the pine nuts, yellow pepper, garlic, saffron and olive oil in a food processor to form a thick paste. Place the cod fillets on a baking sheet and season with salt. Pat the saffron mixture onto the cod fillets, pressing lightly to make it adhere. Bake in the middle of the oven for 8 minutes, until the fish is opaque all the way through.  

FRESH PEA AND LEMONGRASS SOUP

Ingredients:

3 small leeks (finely chopped)
1 onion(finely chopped)
50g butter
2 potatoes (peeled and diced)
1.5l chicken stock
2 lemongrass sticks (finely chopped)
1kl fresh peas, shelled
250ml milk
Seasoning

Sauté the leeks, lemongrass and onion in the butter in a heavy saucepan until tender. Do not allow to colour. Add the diced potatoes and stir to mix. Pour in the stock; bring to the boil and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes. Add the peas and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the milk, season to taste and liquidise the soup in a food processor until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and serve.

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