The warm, sunny days of summer bring with them a bounty of vibrant, colourful fruits and vegetables. I am well acquainted with juicy stone-fruits, and plump berries, and sweet kernels of corns but I’ve found myself with little experiencing cooking with peas (frozen peas don’t really count, do they?). Those teeny, sweet peas seem to have escaped my culinary adventures…until now. Whilst strolling around the Kitsilano Farmers Market this past sunny Sunday, I was inspired by a large bag of English peas that I saw for a mere $5. I remembered that I had seen my good friend*, Jamie Oliver, using peas to make a fancy looking summer bruschetta. DING! A light-bulb went on!
I grabbed the bag of English peas and some thick pods of fava beans and ran straight back home to shell them. I felt like a character from a war-time romance novel; sitting on my patio, shelling peas in the sun whilst I looked down at people making their way to the market.
This recipe was fun (mostly because I got to shell and mash the peas) but the mashing did get old quite quickly. Jamie said not to use the food processor but if you are short of time, I say do it anyway. The mashing took me the most amount of time because those slippery little peas try to get away! Not only is this dish satisfying enough to be a light, easy summer dinner but it is vegetarian. It even ended up being quite impressive to look at so I recommend making this for your favourite vegetarian to really “wow” them. Peas, hey? Who would have thought they’d be so tasty!
*Note: Jamie and I aren’t really friends. But we totally should be.
A version of this recipe can be found at Jamie’s site or at his “Jamie At Home” cookbook.
Jamie Oliver’s Incredible Smashed Peas and Fava Beans on Toast – Serves 4
1 pound of peas in their pods (about 5 ounces shelled weight)
1 1/2 pounds fava beans in their pods (about 9 ounces shelled weight)
A small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces finely grated fresh pecorino cheese, plus extra for serving
Juice of 1 lemon
4 slices of sourdough bread
1 clove of garlic, unpeeled, cut in half
2 large balls of buffalo mozzarella cheese, torn in half
A handful of pea shoots
Shell the peas and fava beans, keeping them separate. Put any really small ones to one side to use in the salad.
This next bit is best done in a pestle and mortar, in batches if necessary. (You can pulse it in a food processor instead, but you won’t end up with the lovely bashed and bruised flavour that makes this dish incredible.) Bash up half the mint leaves with the peas and a pinch of salt. Add the fava beans a few at a time and crush to a thick green paste.
Mash in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to make the paste really gorgeous and spreadable. Stir in the pecorino. If the mixture is a bit stiff, add a little more oil to loosen it. Add about three-quarters of the lemon juice – this will bring the whole story together. Have a taste and see what you think. You want the richness of the pecorino and the oil to balance nicely with the freshness of the peas, beans and mint. Season with more salt and some pepper if you need to.
Toast the bread on both sides, either on a barbecue or in a hot griddle pan. Rub each slice twice only (very important) with the cut side of the garlic and top with some smashed peas and half of ball of mozzarella.
Dress the pea shoots, the remaining mint leaves and the reserved small peas and beans with the rest of the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and scatter this salad over the crostini. Finish with a little more olive oil and a grating of pecorino.
The recipe can be found here (sort of). The recipe above has more accurate measurements which I got from Jamie’s cookbook.