On the meditative properties of pea podding I could write a pamphlet. Instead, I wrote this short post, which is much shorter than a pamphlet, and thank goodness for that, for no one would read it otherwise.
Perhaps you share in this sentiment: perhaps the sight of a bag of peas in their pod gets you every time, too. It’s a form of seduction that transcends the five senses, and that breaches into the emotional. It’s their promise of peacefulness I deeply cherish. As I picture the tender spheres rubbing shoulders inside their green zip coats, all I can think of is the silence that will follow – the ritual, and the patience it summons.
I love podding peas while sitting outside in the warm May air, with nothing around but the chirping of the birds and the sound of my thoughts, and the tap, tap tap of the fruits falling into the bowl. I enjoy the surprise of a full, perfectly formed line of peas, as crowded as sardines in a tin, and sadden at the sight of an empty pod. More than anything, though, I love seeing the bowl full at the end of the process, despite my copious snacking, and imagining all the good things that are going to come out of it.
In the ream of fresh peas, as in so many things in life, small and young and tender is best, for that’s when sweetess and juice are at their peak. As time passes, the fruits become bitter and floury and require longer sessions on the stove and more seasoning to conceal their imperfections.
In Veneto, outdoor-grown peas are ready to be picked in mid-May. So from that point onwards, we pod and pod and eat and eat them in all fashions – in risi e bisi, braised with onion and tomato sauce (both recipes are in my cookbook), and, as of late, in this intriguing new fashion.
The inspiration for this dish came from acclaimed London chef Stevie Parle, whose recipe suggested to braise peas ever so briefly and then plunge them while still hot in a garlicky, minty, aromatic oil bath. Roughly-torn buffalo mozzarella complements the dish, giving it substance and the ability to stand alone. I often make this a one-dish meal to go with some bread apt at mopping the delectable oil left on the plate. You can, of course, bulk it up with some grilled meat, or make it one of a series of sharing dishes, or even take it with you on your next adventure – it packs very well. Just don’t use frozen peas: they won’t cut it.
Fresh Peas with Buffalo Mozzarella, Garlic and Mint
1 kg peas in the pod
1 bunch mint
4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil (the best you can get)
4 x 150 g balls of buffalo mozzarella
Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemons
Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Shell the peas (you can keep the pods to make stock or soup).
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the garlic cloves and half of the mint on the stem. Add the peas, too, and boil them for about 3 minutes or until just tender and bright green. Drain through a sieve; retain the garlic and discard the mint.
Pour all the olive oil into a large bowl and add the warm peas, garlic and the fresh mint leaves. Season well with salt and pepper, toss to coat, then leave to cool.
To serve, spoon the peas with their oil and aromatics on a large platter. Tear the mozzarella into pieces and set in on top, then finish te dish with the grated lemon zest. Serve.