BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet is one of my most favourite things, right after whiskers on kittens and Atmospheric River Events on roses. They travel the UK looking for regional specialties and sharing cooking advice. Most of the members of the panel are from some part of the UK (I think), but they even have a token American who is called on to explain things like corn dogs. I love them not just because they read one of my recipes on the air (and raved…) but also because I keep learning stuff from them. Some cooking shows only make me hungry, this one makes me laugh and also put on that “thinking emoji” face that spins.
The recipe they shared from me involved split peas, or, as they seem to prefer it spelled, pease. You’ve heard the nursery rhyme, “peas porridge hot”. Or, to use the correct spelling,
The Wiki notes that “pease” was the original mass noun like “sheep”. Pea is a neologism and “peas” is even newer.
To make pease porridge, one uses yellow split pease. The nutrition information for this is really quite surprising. In 100 grams (uncooked) we find:
Dietary fiber 50g
Fiber and protein far out-weigh the sugars. That same cup of uncooked veggies has a tiny bit of fat and a whopping 341 calories. (100 grams of brussel sprouts has 46 calories. 100g of russet potatoes has 79 calories.) Pease are high energy, high protein treats! No wonder they were a huge part of the diet not only in the Mediaeval period but also in the many parts of the world right up until the modern era. They don’t have a lot of different vitamins, but they are very high in magnesium and iron (nearly 50% RDA of each). This is a good food value for folks.
It’s simple to make: soak 200g yellow split pease in water overnight. (It’s the 21st century, folks. Buy a scale. If you prefer traditional imperial weight measurements: .03 stone.) Drain but don’t rinse. My rice cooker is perfect for this: just add water to cover and then run in through a cycle, stir, add water to cover again, and one more cycle. Done. Texture is an issue for some folks: if you like it bit on the chewy side and you can add about a quarter cup of raw pease before the second cycle. Other’s like it very smooth and will run an immersion blender through it. Simple, right? As it cools it turns into a think goop rather like very stiff mashed potatoes. Add butter if you want. The trick is how you decide to flavor it.
Traditionally, you would dice a carrot and a small onion, add salt and paper and a bay leaf or two. There is a California Bay in the back yard and I can vouch for the goodness of this recipe. You upscale with bacon or ham. Serve it on bread, toast, biscuits, etc. Some Bisto gravy makes this completely amazing. It seems it’s also traditional to use this as a sandwich spread of some sort, but I can’t figure that out.
But flavoring, or flavouring…
The first time there was no ham so broth was made with red miso paste. It was amazing.
The second time there was no miso, so only bacon went in. That was astounding.
The third time I used a packet of onion soup mix in the water. Sooo good! Add garlic!