Thursday, April 28, 2011

Peas Please!


As is always the case, I've jumped the gun and bought a few handfuls of fresh peas. I can't help it: My name is Dahlia, and I am a pea-aholic. Here in Montreal, local peas do not hit the market until early June, but when my rubber arm gets twisted, I will break down and buy peas from Virginia, South Carolina, and anywhere else along the American East Coast until the peas in my garden are ready to be eaten.


Fresh chickpeas are also in season right about now. They come from all the way in Texas, but my! are they ever scrumptious! They are an absolute treat: they are a cross between a dried garbanzo and a sweet pea. They're definitely starchier than peas, but they are not mealy like over-tired peas. They aren't exactly easy to find, but if you do see them, do try them, you won't regret it.

While I am still working on a (inordinately) large bag of left-over winter potatoes, I am positively craving new potatoes. Don't ask me how I can possibly get my hands on local new spuds in April, but the potato guy at the market has them, and they're from just outside Montreal. They are thin-skinned  and scrumptious, just like 'real' new potatoes, but I suspect they are actually over-wintered potatoes that were not harvested last fall. All I know is that fresh peas, chickpeas and new potatoes are delicious when cooked in the same pot.


The following recipe somewhat resembles a cross between the Peruvian vegetable stew called ajiaco and the Spanish patatas bravas. It is basically a fridge and pantry clean-out dish, and can be made with any kind of vegetables. Nevertheless, it is rather suited to fresh peas, chickpeas and new potatoes. Although new potatoes are not a must, you should use waxy potatoes,  as starchy spuds will likely fall apart in the sauce. Frozen peas, canned or dried chickpeas would certainly make a toothsome ajiaco. Only do try the fresh peas, if you can get your paws on them.

Nothing -in my mind- can beat the ultimate pleasure of shucking fresh peas. I keep repeating myself, I know, but just in case there are new people reading this post, I will say it again: there is no gratification like shucking a bushel of fresh peas. I'll let you in on a secret: back when I was living in England, I had a crazy -and at times, unsustainable- work schedule. But when it was pea season, there was nothing I relished more than shucking the cases of peas. I might have had a long list of things to do, a section to run, and crunch time was minutes away, but the shelling of peas I kept for myself. It was my 15 minutes of meditation/escape. Peace within the chaos. 


Ajiaco of Fresh Peas, Garbanzos and New Potatoes
Serves 4-5 as a main dish, or 6-8 as a side

500g/ ± 1lb shelling peas (±300g/ a little over ½lb shelled)
500g/ ± 1lb fresh chick peas (or 1 medium can, or about 100g/3.5 oz/1cup dried garbanzos)
500g/ ±1 lb new potatoes
500ml/ 2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion
4Tbs oil, for frying 
1 tsp, or to taste, mild chili paste or dried chili flakes/powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 knob of ginger, or to taste
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt and pepper to taste

If using fresh, shell peas and garbanzos, and set aside.
Scrub potatoes, place in pot, fill with cold water, and cook until almost done.
In the meantime, finely mince the garlic, chop the onion. Peel and grate the ginger.
In another pot, heat oil over medium-high heat.
Add the minced garlic to the hot oil. Fry until golden and the sizzling ceases.
If using fresh chili paste, add to the garlic. Fry until it starts to curdle in the oil.
Add the cumin (and chili, if using dried) and turmeric to the oil, and fry until fragrant and golden. 
Fry the onions and ginger next. Cook until the onions are translucent.
If things begin to stick to the pot, add a few drops of water.
When the onions are fully cooked, add the crushed tomatoes, and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add the parboiled potatoes, and leave to simmer.
Adjust the seasoning.
When the potatoes are fully cooked, throw in the peas and garbanzos.
Simmer for another 6 to 8 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Peruvian cookery is not known for being blow-your-head-off spicy, so unless you are going for the bravas effect, try to temper the heat: it should register as a pleasant tingle in the mouth, not searing pain. The crushed tomatoes are not a traditional ingredient, since Peruvians usually  purée large, mild chilies to add pizzazz and bulk to their sauces. If you happen to have a few Ancho/ New Mexico or Poblano chilies on hand, you can blend those to make about 125ml/ ½ cup of paste, and omit part or all of the tomato. Ajiacos are delectable with rice or quinoa, and are rather enjoyable when re-heated the next day or later in the week. You can also add chunks of tofu to the stew, or use it as a saucy side dish for meat. The flavourful seasonings are also great for camouflaging disliked vegetables: I managed to sneak a bunch of kale by my mum without her noticing!



Bon app'!



4 comments:

  1. Somewhat ridiculously, I never thought of chickpeas being fresh. I imagined I suppose, that they came into the world dried. How silly. I must get my hands on some, I'm fascinated now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I know what you mean. It never occurred to me until they started appearing at the market a few years ago. The season is short though, s they are easy to miss.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bonjour,je viens de parcourir votre blog,j'ai beaucoup aimé.... Et tous ces plats ,vous en avez des recettes !!!!!!! bonne journée la recette que j'ai ne me satisfait pas ,je suis très preneuse !! merci par avance
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    ReplyDelete
  4. Bonjour,je viens de parcourir votre blog,j'ai beaucoup aimé....j'ais déjà traité un site comme ca

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    ReplyDelete

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