Category Archives: gluten-free

Pea Days

I have a cameo memory from when I was young of sitting on the back doorstep shucking peas in the sunshine with my mum. Peas were super exciting then as although peas were available in cans all year round it was before the frozen pea revolution and canned peas were completely different to fresh peas. Fresh peas were a total treat when they arrived.

We grow peas in our garden. Just for us, not for the shop, because if we were paid to grow, pick and shuck the peas without a mechanised system they would be like gold.

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We just grow them to eat like sweeties when they first ripen and as the crop ripens we always make risi e bisi (a pea risotto) and summer vegetable pilafs, paellas and salads but after that we begin to scratch our heads and the peas keep coming. It’s a real grow your own phenomenon, the all or nothing syndrome and when the peas ripen they need eating as it’s obvious they should not go into the freezer.

This is new recipe that we’ve enjoyed this summer. It was inspired by a recipe from Spain called Tortillitas de Camarones which are crispy little fritters made with baby shrimp. Last autumn we visited Sanlucar de Barrameda in the very south of Spain and I have happy memories of bars where camarones were served as tapas on the terraces, usually with an accompanying glass of chilled manzanilla, the local sherry.

I became addicted to these thin crispy fritters and when I got home I tried to make my own. They weren’t quite the same and it wasn’t only the lack of sunshine that was missing  so I googled the problem and after reading many recipes and watching a particularly edifying YouTube tutorial I cracked it!

You might be wondering at this stage what this has to do with the peas, well I discovered they are an excellent addition to this recipe, either peas and shrimp or peas alone. Both work very well and the peas alone are suitable for vegans which is always a bonus.

There are couple of little tricks involved so read the recipe carefully before you begin.

Use a combination of gram flour and white rice flour if you want the fritters to be gluten-free. The water needs to be chilled and sparkling gives the best results

 

Pea fritters – Tortillitas de Guisantes

 

200g peas – fresh or defrosted

1 small onion

90g gram flour

40g white flour or rice flour

¼ tsp turmeric

A little lemon zest

1 tbs finely chopped parsley

Chilled sparkling water

Oil to fry

 

Pod or defrost the peas.

Sift the gram flour and regular flour or cornflour into a bowl. Add half teaspoon salt and turmeric. Stir to mix.

Peel and finely chop the onion small and finely chop the parsley. Zest a few swipes of lemon for the mix

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Put everything except for the water into the bowl and mix well then start stirring in the chilled water until the batter has a medium pouring consistency, like a crepe pancake mix or pouring cream.

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Heat 4cms oil in a frying pan or wide based saucepan and when it is hot add a tablespoon of the fritter mix, spread it a little with the spoon after it goes into the pan, spreading the fritter with the back of the spoon under surface of the oil., it should be bubbling just below the surface. You need to do this quickly. Repeat but don’t overcrowd the pan.

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Cook each side for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Lift onto kitchen paper then cook the next batch. It’s a good idea to stack the fritters like dishes so the oil drains off both sides.

Serve with lemon wedges

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Where did I see that recipe?!

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I had definite ‘food slump’ last week, my brain just didn’t want to know what to cook so I ended up leafing through cookbooks in search of inspiration. At some point I came upon a recipe for barley risotto with feta which was interesting on two fronts. One being that I had piece of locally produced ‘Greek’ style goats cheese in the fridge and the other that barley grows here in Ireland and therefore hits the sustainable list.

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However between reading and making the dish I found I couldn’t remember where I’d seen the recipe. I checked through several books until I figured i’d better just get the dinner on the go or we wouldn’t be getting any.  I free styled the recipe but one detail which I thought that I had remembered was the cooking time – 20 minutes – which I had obviously got very wrong as the barley took a good hour to become nicely nutty and toothsome. In fact if I had thought about it all I would have realised that barley is not a fast cooker but luckily hunger is the best sauce and when the risotto was ready it was eaten with gusto. Just have the crossword handy to occupy yourself whilst loitering and stirring.

Tomato, Fennel and Barley Risotto

1 large onion

1 bulb fennel

75g butter

25mls olive oil

300g pearled barley

1 glass white wine

300mls tomato passata

1.2litre stock (approx)

200g local goats cheese or feta

rocket or basil pesto to serve

Peel and chop the onion finely. Heat a medium saucepan, add 25g butter, the olive oil and chopped onion, Cook on a medium heat.

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Cut the fennel in half lengthwise then slice thinly lengthwise. Add the fennel to the onions, sprinkle a little salt and stir well.

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Cook so that the onions and fennel are sizzling nicely without browning until they melt down, 10-15 minutes.

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Add the pearled barley and stir well until well mixed then add a glass of wine. Allow the wine to bubble up and reduce then stir in the passata. Bring everything to a bubble then begin to add roughly one fifth of  vegetable stock at a time, stirring very 5 minutes and adding more stock as needed to keep it cooking and from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Taste when the stock is used up and if the risotto is not ready add a little water and continue cooking.

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Dice the remaining 50g butter and dice the goats cheese.

When the risotto is to your liking take off the heat and beat in the butter. Beat being the operative word as this will make the risotto creamy. Stir three quarters of the goats cheese through. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed,

Spoon into shallow bowls, top with the remaining cheese and drizzle over a little pesto.

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Beam Me Up Spuddy!

Here’s a recipe to teleport you to Greece from your own kitchen using the humble spud.

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Just imagine the blue sea, the blue skies, sitting outside a taverna and all those tray bakes of vegetables, meats and fish. The Greeks are masters at traybakes and the tavernas often have rows of different dishes which have been slowly cooked in an oven displayed on the counter.

The slow cooking is key, generally the dishes aren’t complicated but cooking slowly creates intense flavour that hasn’t shooshed off into the stratosphere it’s just settled quietly in the pan

This dish is real simple spring food, potatoes roasted into sweet submission with olive  oil, oregano and lemon juice. Delicious with nearly everything and the bonus is it’s made with ingredients you might well have in the house.

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Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes

 

1kg potatoes

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

1 lemon, juiced

75mls olive oil

Salt

100mls vegetable/chicken stock

 

Oven 190c

Peel the potatoes then cut into large chunks.

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Toss with a generous glug of olive oil, chopped garlic, oregano and salt then put them in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. Take the tray from the oven, give the potatoes a shake then pour the vegetable/chicken stock over the potatoes.

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Bake for another 20 minutes then take the tray out again, shake the potatoes and sprinkle over the lemon juice . Bake for 15 minutes more or until the potatoes are golden and beginning to crisp.

Scrape out all crusty bits when serving.

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Posh Carrot Salad

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This is just what we need at this time, carrot salad elevated to a vegan prawn cocktail status. It’s guaranteed to cheer up the day and boost our immune systems.

This is a rehash of a salad that we’ve been eating for years but re-assembled. The carrots and avocado are a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants and the toasted seeds provide omega 3’s and crunch.

I enjoy eating this dressed with a little vinaigrette but a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon juice would be good too.

 

1 ripe avocado

2 carrots

20g sunflower seeds

1 tsp soya sauce or tamari

1 tsp Dijon vinegar

1 tbs vinegar – your best

3-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Carefully split a just ripe avocado in half and remove the pit. Peel each half  – the skin should peel back with very little assistance with a knife. Just nick the skin with a knife and with a bit of luck the skin peel back by hand. Put each half in a small bowl.

Peel and grate the carrots then pile the carrots on the avocado

Heat a dry pan and gently toast the sunflower seeds then toss together with a little soya/tamari sauce.

Whisk the vinegar together with the vinegar using a fork then slowly whisk in the olive oil Season with a little salt or a few drops of soya/tamari sauce

Scatter the seeds over the carrots then drizzle over a little vinaigrette

Any left-over vinaigrette can be stored in the fridge – jam jars with lids or recycled mozzarella tubs work well here

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Home alone with Lemons

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I’ve been holed up with a box of lemons – literally. I inherited an entire box when we closed the shop this week because of the coronavirus and have been merrily making my way through it ever since.

I have a big kilner jar of pickled lemons , or should I say pickling lemons as they’re not ready to eat yet. I found the recipe in the Guardian, a lemon pickle to eat with samosas which required 25 birds eye chillies which I just happened to have in my chilli bucket.

IMG_7363We recently harvested the last of our chillies in our tunnel to make room for this years seeds and now we have quite some chillies to make our way through. The pickle sounds exciting  – lemons, chilli, nigella seeds, mustard seeds, oil , vinegar and what sounded like an alarming amount of salt – !00g salt and only 2tbs sugar.

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It has me curious. Anyways it’s going to take two weeks before I can try it so l have to be patient.

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The rest of the lemons, bar a couple held back for the gin and tonics, were finely sliced and left over night in water. I put them into a big pot today, added sugar and cooked them for more than an hour .They made the house smell a lot better than sanitiser!

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Here’s the recipe, scale it back to make less. I think one quarter would make a sensible family amount unless you are marmalade freaks. It  does taste seriously good. Lemony, sweet and sharp at the same time – just as marmalade should taste.

 

Lemon Marmalade

 

25 lemons

3.5 litres water

4kg sugar

about 20 clean jam jars

 

Wash the lemons well and slice very thinly with a sharp knife.

Put the lemon slices in a large bowl and cover with the water and leave overnight.

The next day, put everything into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer until the lemons are very tender, about one hour.

Put a small plate into the fridge or freezer to chill

Add the sugar to the pot and bring to the boil. Keep the marmalade at a rolling boil for about twenty to thirty minutes. Do not turn to a low simmer as the marmalade needs to reach 104c to set. You need to keep the heat as high as you can without boiling over so stay close by. Fish out any stray pips that float to the surface. To check whether the marmalade is ready to set put a spoonful of onto the chilled plate and leave for a few minutes then gently push your finger sideways on the surface. If the marmalade is ready to set small wrinkles will appear. If this doesn’t happen put another clean plate to chill and boil the marmalade for another five to ten minutes then try again. If it’s ready take the marmalade off the heat and let it rest for ten minutes. This will stop the peel from sinking to the bottom of the jars. Wash the jam jars well and put them in a hot oven for five minutes. This will sterilise the jars and also prevent them from cracking when they are filled with the hot marmalade. Wipe any spilt marmalade from the sides and top of the jars with a clean cloth and cover with clean lids whilst still hot.

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Rocket Beans

One good thing the coronavirus has given me is some time. It all felt very stressful in the beginning but now with everything closing down, not having to organise work or rushing here and everywhere, everything has slowed down. I’m also avoiding wall to wall reportage, just listening to enough news to keep up, and thinking of all the things I can get done now that I have some time.

Funny how I want to fill it!

This is the first recipe since last year Halloween!

And here is what we had for dinner last night…..

Beans take time to cook – even if you open a can, they always benefit from a little bathing with the other ingredients.

This recipe is for beans cooked with melted down onion and fennel, cooked until just before they caramelise. I put in a Parmesan rind at the same time and this creates a creamy unctuous side to the whole affair but leave it out if you don’t have one or want a vegan version.

This recipe began as Beans and Greens in my repertoire but it was dark last night when I began to cook. Too late to pick greens but I had some rocket in the fridge that I made into pesto which I drizzled over  when serving. We ate the beans with chippy potatoes on the side.

Below are the instruction for cooking dried beans but last night I opened a jar!

 

Rocket Beans

150g dried cannellini beans or a can or jar drained and rinsed.

1 – 2 onions

2 stems celery

1-2 small fennel

2-3 cloves garlic

parmesan rind (optional)

olive oil

salt and pepper

1 glass white wine

 

 

100g rocket – chopped

1 dip pine nuts

100=150mls olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic- peeled and chopped

A squeeze of lemon juice

50g grated parmesan

 

Soak the cannellini beans overnight in cold water.

Bring enough water to cover the beans to the boil then drain and rinse the beans, tip them into the pot and bring back to the boil. When the beans are boiling turn to a low simmer and cook gently for 40 minutes then check them to see if they are tender, they will probably need more time so if they need longer cooking check every ten minutes until the beans are cooked. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

Whilst the beans are cooking, peel and chop the onions. Heat a saucepan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom then add the onions. When the onions are sizzling reduce the heat and cook for five minutes.

Wash the celery and chop into four strips lengthwise then chop into a small dice and add to the onions.

Wash the fennel, chop in half then slice thinly and add to the pot.

Season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper – this will help the vegetables to melt down and add the Parmesan rind if you have one.

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Cook the vegetables gently until they are are soft and translucent, this will take 20-30 minutes, then peel and chop the garlic and stir in. Cook for another five minutes then add a glass of white wine, let it bubble up then add the drained beans and enough cooking liquid to just cover the beans. Use water or stock if you have opened a can/jar.  Season with salt and pepper then simmer the beans for 20-30 minutes. The liquid will reduce  – the beans shouldn’t be swimming in liquid when served but keep enough to have the beans sitting in a little sauce.

To make the pesto put all the ingredients into a jug and buzz with a handheld blender.

Adjust the consistency and season with a little salt

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To serve, put a ladleful of beans onto each plate and drizzle over a little pesto

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Vampire Soup with Optional Eyeballs

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Beetroots have been around since the Romans who enjoyed their earthy charm.  The root and leaves have been eaten for centuries. They also had a moment of glory when it was discovered that beetroots could be converted to sugar but these days these brightly coloured vegetables are known more for the fact that they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The colour of the beetroot that makes everything that it touches turn some shade of pink/red/purple seems to perk people up. Antioxidants or not their colour certainly cheers things up on a rainy day

 

To celebrate Samhain and Halloween I ‘ve made this this sensational Vampire soup with optional eyeballs. The soup is in fact a sophisticated marriage of beetroot and fennel gently cooked into sweet submission and adorned with crème fraiche but with a little imagination and a few peas it transforms into a ghoulish delight.

 

The Vampire title may entice your children to try this stunning soup and the optional eyeballs are easily achieved by posting a pea on top of a little spoonful of crème fraiche and setting it afloat.

It could be just the thing for Halloween

You could even organise an eyeball eating contest.

 

Here’s the recipe

It’s very easy to make, It doesn’t matter too much  the size of the beetroots that you use, it’s more important that they are fresh so don’t use ones that are pre cooked and vacuum packed.

Choose about three big or six small beetroots

 

Beetroot and Fennel Soup

 

1 onion

75mls olive oil

1-2 stems celery

1 fennel

1 potato

3-6 beetroots

800mls vegetable stock

A squeeze of lemon juice

 

Peel and chop the onion

Heat a saucepan, add the olive oil and onion then cook on a medium heat.

Chop the celery into 4 lengthwise then dice small and stir in with the onion.

Trim the fennel then cut into half and chop finely.

Stir in with the onion and celery, season with a little salt. Keep the vegetables gently humming away in the pan. Turn the heat up and down until you’re happy the gentle sizzle is not burning. Peel and dice the  beetroots and potato small, add to the pan and stir into to combine leave to cook for another 10 minutes with the occasional stir. Season with salt,  Add the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then cook at a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Blitz until smooth, add a squeeze of lemon juice, taste, then adjust the seasoning.

Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche

 

 


Tomato Party

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The time we have been waiting for all summer has arrived. The tomatoes have ripened and we are enjoying them with nearly everything. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We grew fifteen varieties of tomatoes this year, all selected for their flavour rather than prolific production or uniform size. The names are curious but in fact somehow apt when you see the fruits –  Bottondoro, Mountain Magic, Fandango, Liguria, Ox Heart, Moon Glow….. They’re all shapes and colours,  red, orange, pink, and yellow .

We let the tomatoes ripen on the vine, this guarantees that they are bursting with flavour and not all picked at once. There’s always a bit of a wait for the tomatoes to ripen but we are usually still picking them in moderation well into the autumn

Each variety has merits, the Bottondoro – orange cherry tomatoes are delicious roasted , we’ve been spooning them onto and over things with a dollop of creme fraiche. The Fandangoes, Ox Hearts and Moonglows have been cut into a chunky dice and consumed with just a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of  sherry vinegar and salt. They don’t need any fancy treatment.

We ‘ve also made pasta, stews, soups, risottos and most of all ‘pan con tomate’ the Spanish go to breakfast.

Pan con tomate is toast rubbed with a smidgeon of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and tomato which is rubbed on the toast or grated.

Grating tomatoes is a very useful kitchen trick.

Simply take a large ripe tomato, cut it in half and grate it flesh side down, over a bowl, on the coarse side of the grater. The result will be a fresh tomato passata in the bowl and a tomato skin in your hand. Just bin the tomato skin and the tomato is ready to use.

Here is a recipe for a Greek dish, using grated tomato.  Prawns with Ouzo and black olives are the original incarnation but Ouzo which is a Greek aniseed flavoured aperitif can be replaced with whatever you have in the drinks cupboard. I use Pernod but brandy or white wine would work too.

This is delicious mopped up with bread or served with basmati rice or pasta for a main course. Fresh prawns would be the ultimate but uncooked frozen prawns will work too just be sure to dry them well before frying.

Serves 6 for a mezze, 3- 4 for a main course

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Prawns with Ouzo and Black olives

 

500g fresh peeled prawns – not already cooked

75mls olive oil

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

2-3 large ripe tomatoes – about 500g

a good pinch of dried oregano

a small glass of Ouzo or Pernod

1-2 tbs black olives

salt and black pepper.

chopped flat leaf parsley

 

Peel and finely chop the onion

Peel and finely chop the garlic

Cut the tomatoes in half and grate on the coarse side of the grater, holding the skin side. Discard the skins

Dry the prawns on a little kitchen roll.

Heat a small frying pan, add the olive oil then the prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes until the prawns just change colour. Lift out of the pan and put aside.

Fry the onions until they begin to soften then stir in the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the grated tomatoes, oregano and the ouzo or Pernod. Let the sauce bubble up and reduce for a few minutes. Stir in the prawns and black olives then cook for anther 3-4 minutes. Take off the heat, season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley.

 

 

 


Rabbits and Raspberry Pancakes

We have a rabbit in our garden, It has been hopping about devouring beans and kale and now it’s systematically chomping through a row of cauliflowers. This is an unusual problem for us as the garden’s walled and although birds cause devastation the rabbits usually stay out. It’s not easy to catch a rabbit and our dog isn’t taking any incentive so we’re building rabbit trap – a contraption made from a bucket and sticks. A bit like catching a tiger in the jungle. Fingers crossed it will work and we can relocate the rabbit otherwise we’ll have to have a rethink as for sure it can’t stay.

Apart from the bunny drama the garden is ticking along nicely. Just about everything is in situ – the pumpkins, the courgettes and beans etc but as it’s not been very warm it’s very slow. The beans look horrified, they have gone a pathetic shade of yellowy green but hopefully the temperature will rise and they’ll recover.

The soft fruits are ripening and we have the gooseberries well protected with nets this year. Last year the birds stripped the plants the minute the gooseberries ripened but we’re on the ball this time.

There are also raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and loganberries ripening – nearly time to crank the jam factory into action.

Meanwhile we’re making delicious raspberry pancakes, perfect for summer breakfasts/brunch – kind of healthy and decadent at the same time. Made with oats and squashed banana they are surprisingly sophisticated and banana-flavour free. They take no longer to make than a fry up with the added bonus of twice the vitamins and antioxidants.

Any berry could be used for this recipe, fresh or frozen but a lot of them have travelled a long way. There are some delicious local raspberries available at the moment. If you haven’t got your own raspberries to pick, these are the next best thing  – big fat berries with a powerpack of flavour.

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Eat the pancakes naked, or drizzled with maple syrup or honey and a dollop of Greek yoghurt .

 

Makes 8 little pancakes – multiply the recipe for crowds.

For a vegan version substitute the eggs with 50mls extra plant milk

 

Raspberry pancakes

 

100g oatflakes

1 banana – roughly chopped

2 eggs –

100mls milk – any kind

1 heaped tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 punnet raspberries

oil or butter to fry

 

Put the oatflakes into a food processor and buzz until fairly fine.

Separate the eggs. Put the whites in a bowl and the yolks in with oats then add the milk, banana, vanilla and baking powder to the oat mix. Buzz until the mix is fairly smooth

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Tip the oat mix into a bowl then gently fold in the whisked egg whites

Heat a frying pan and when the pan is hot add a smear of butter or a drizzle of oil. Spoon the mix in a tablespoon at a time, allowing space between each pancake so that they don’t stick together. Turn the heat to medium-low

Post a few raspberries into each pancake and when little bubbles begin to appear on the surface carefully flip the pancake over and cook the other side.


In Anticipation of Peas

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It’s a busy time in the garden, lots to sow, transplant and weed but not a vast selection to eat. There are plenty of green things – salad leaves, herbs, baby spinach, a few bolting leeks but for the rest we are waiting.

This recipe is in anticipation of the peas.

Our peas are about 15cms tall and on the up, beginning to climb their chicken wire fence. There’s a way to go but they’re coming

There is still time to plant peas if you have the space. They enjoy the Irish climate and providing the mice don’t eat the seeds will soon emerge and start climbing up, grasping with tiny tendrils to whatever is close by so it’s best to make a fence to keep them where you want them.

The main reason I plant pod peas is because they are so sweet. We snack on them in the garden so probably only half the harvest hits the kitchen.

The secret with peas is to eat them as soon as you pick them, before the sugars convert to starch. This is why frozen peas are so successful and indeed can be superior to pod peas.as unless they were recently picked they will have become a little starchy.

These little green orbs have a lot going for them as they are a source of plant-based protein, officially a legume not a vegetable. Paired with eggs, a little fresh goats cheese or yoghurt to make a complete protein this makes a nutritious vegetarian option that is easy and fast to make.

I was going to make the recipe in the blender but there was a power cut so instead of buzzing the mix I got stuck in with  a potato masher  and the result was chunky pea in batter delicious so the recipe can be made either way. If you use a blender pulse buzz and stop before the mix is smooth.

We’re using Sunview fresh goats cheese, which comes from Kilmichael near Macroom. Goats cheese has a dodgy reputation but this new season fresh cheese is creamy and delicious, not in the least bit goaty.

If you can’t handle goats cheese use a little feta or leave it out.

We ate these with mint and yoghurt sauce and salad on the side.

 

Pea fritters

 

300g peas

3 eggs

3-4 spring onions

zest of half a lemon

50g crumbled fresh goats cheese

50g cornflour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

oil to fry.

 

Bring apot of water to the boil , add the peas then cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain and refresh under the cold tap then put aside .

Crack the eggs into a bowl. Seive the cornflour and baking poiwder then whisk into the eggs together with the slat.

Finely chop the spring annions then stir into the batter with the lemon zest, goats cheese and peas. Mash with apotato masher to crush the peas.

Heat a frying pan, pour in a little oil – enough ti just cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon in 3 or 4 tablespoons of the batter, allowing each fritter to spread but not join up. Turn the heat to medium and fry the fritter for 2-3 inutes then flip over and cook the otherside. Repeat until the mix is used up. I made 10 fritters.

 

Mint Yoghurt Sauce

 

250mls Greek yoghurt

1 tbs finely chopped mint

salt. And cracked black pepper.

 

Mix te yoghurt and finely chopped mint together then season with salt and cracked black pepper.