Cook with..Chris Lee

This week Chris Lee of The Packhorse Inn, Moulton shares his love of peas.

Did you know that the first peas to be frozen were in the 1920s by biologist Clarence Birdseye,

inventor of the ‘plate froster’? In 1969 the Birds Eye frozen pea commercial was the first TV advert to be broadcast in colour and just a few years later, a four year old Patsy Kensit made her pea-popping TV debut advertising the freshness of frozen peas. Frozen peas are available all year round but fresh garden peas are in season from early June until late July.

Mangetout, literally “eat all” in French, has its own celebrity connections with Only Fools and Horses - Del Boy’s misplaced pretension making liberal use of the term “mangetout mangetout” to demonstrate his cosmopolitan nature. Mangetout are in fact undeveloped garden peas, picked while the pod is still edible.

The UK is the largest producer of peas for freezing in Europe and here in East Anglia, our east facing seaboard has proved well suited to pea production. The Suffolk village of Peasenhall is where the Romans are first said to have cultivated peas in Britain and the community is to celebrate the pea, its growers and its heritage this year with the 7th Peasenhall Pea Festival on Sunday, July 20.


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Q: Can I make a hummus-like dip with peas from my allotment?

A: What can be more delicious than the sweetness of a freshly picked pea straight from the pod? In their young state, peas need no cooking and so most certainly can be crushed or blended with other ingredients to make a hummus-like dip. To make a smoother dip or if using older or indeed frozen peas, cook (microwave or boil) a few minutes to soften. Traditional hummus is mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. The same ingredients go well with peas instead of chickpeas and you can simply add Greek yoghurt to lighten. Alternatively, opt for the fresher additives more associated with a guacamole style dip: grated onion, garlic, freshly chopped coriander or mint, chili, tabasco and lime. Either way, peas are an excellent pulse to create a seasoned paste or dip.

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Technique – Making a smooth roux.

What is roux, (pronounced “roo”)? A staple of French cuisine which goes back over 300 years, a roux is essentially a thickening agent for soups and sauces. A roux is a mixture of equal quantities of melted butter and flour that is cooked in a pan and used as the base for thickening sauce. After cooking roux, you’ll usually add a liquid ingredient to make a sauce such as milk to make a white béchamel sauce or stock to make a veloute sauce

To ensure a smooth lump-free result, make sure you:

1. Get your ratios right: 20g of butter to 20g of flour to 600ml liquid is generally the proportions used.

2. Use a thick-based pan and a medium heat to reduce the chance of scorching.

3. Cook the roux until the raw flavour of the flour cooks out and the roux has achieved the desired colour. For “white” sauces you want a white roux - stop cooking the roux before it starts to turn colour. Blonde roux is cooked a little longer and is mainly used for stock-based sauces. But remember not to cook the roux for too long as it can impede the flour’s thickening abilities. Darker coloured roux is used in Cajun and Creole cooking, more for flavour than for thickening.

4. The added liquid should always be warm when added to the hot roux. Alternatively you can add hot liquid but the roux must then be cold. You can make roux in advance and store it once cooled in an airtight container in the fridge for several weeks.

5. Take your time – have patience. Add the liquid little by little, whisking until smooth after each addition

6. Whisk constantly or beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon until glossy and of the right smooth consistency. A metal whisk can be more effective but a wooden spoon should be used if you’re using a non-stick pan.

RECIPE: English pea soup, smoked goat’s cheese and almonds

INGREDIENTS

1 large onion

100 g unsalted butter

500g bag of frozen peas – fresh can be used but will require longer cooking

1/2 bunch mint

Salt (to taste)

200ml good quality chicken stock or veg stock

METHOD

1. Slice the onions really finely and sweat in butter, being careful not to colour.

2. Add stock, mint and salt and bring to boil.

3. Add the frozen peas and place a lid on top to boil.

4. Take off the heat, blitz with a blender and pass through a sieve for a smooth result.

At The Packhorse Inn we serve it garnished with fresh minted peas, goat’s cheese and almonds. Chopped ham also works well. The dish is then lightly smoked under a covered cloche which is then lifted at the table for that extra element of surprise.

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