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peas

My glut crop this week is peas, and they are only a glut crop because my kids are grown up.   For years, all through pea season, a whole gang of kids would arrive after school and feast on peas straight from the vine. The cry of “two hands, use two hands to pick” is still a family joke.

These are Willow, or Sommerwood peas, seeds a gift from Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. They’ve done well enough for me to save some seed for next year, but they haven’t stolen my heart.  I like tall climbing peas, since I have to fortress fence my garden beds against everything from brush turkeys to bobuck possums, so I need to use the vertical space productively.  And these are only about 80 cm tall.

I’ve had a few favourite varieties over the years.  Telephone is still my favourite of the tall climbers, though it is a bit prone to powdery mildew if we get a warmer and wetter than usual winter.  In all the years of open, unfenced gardens, I swore by Greenfeast.  They’re a dwarf variety that bears really prolifically, peas so sweet that I very rarely got any to cook.

One of the minor benefits of being between parent and grandparent generation – I get to eat peas.  But I still can’t  think of any better way of dealing with a glut of peas than a gang of kids.

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This is a bit of a  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules cheat.  Now the days have started really lengthening, even the geriatric chooks are laying so handmade pasta with real eggs was in my mind. And then I was looking for a cake tin deep in the back of the shelf and came across a fluted flan tin that I forgot I had.  And in a moment of inspiration realised it would work to cut pasta.  So I decided to try hand making farfalle.

The next decision was primavera with the lovely sweet baby spring vegetables, or carbonara which would use up another egg, so I compromised by combining both. The whole meal didn’t take much over the half hour of the rules, and it was quite simple and easy, but if I were making it for more than two and trying to get it done in the half hour, I think I’d go for a simpler pasta shape.

The Recipe:

Makes two adult sized serves.

The Pasta

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup baker’s flour  (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • a large egg,
  • a spoonful of olive oil,
  • a good pinch of salt.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.

With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out very thin.  (If you flip it several times while rolling, you’ll find you can easily get it very thin without sticking. The thinner the better.)

I put it onto a chopping board to cut, but that will depend on your bench hardiness. You can then cut it into any shape you like. To make farfalle, I used the fluted edge of the flan tin to cut the pasta into strips about 2.5 cm thick, then into 5 cm lengths.  You can fold and stack the pasta and cut 5 or 6 layers at once to make it a bit faster.  I then just squeezed the centre of each little piece of pasta to make the bow shape.  This is the bit that takes time. Kids may enjoy helping.

Put a pot of water on to boil and leave the pasta spread out to dry a little while you make the sauces.

The Carbonara:

You don’t need to wash the food processor.

Blend together:

  • egg
  • 80 grams of low fat feta
  • 2 big dessertspoons of low fat cottage cheese

The Primavera:

They are all fresh vegetables that take no time to cook, so this will come together in 5 minutes;

In a heavy frypan, with a little olive oil, add (in more or less this order, giving it a stir with each addition)

  • a small leek, finely chopped
  • a handful of  single shelled broad beans
  • 4 or 5 leaves of kale or silver beet, or a couple of each (just the greens, not the stems)
  • a big handful of shelled fresh peas
  • a big handful of snow peas, chopped into bites
  • a dozen or so olives, roughly chopped
  • half a dozen spears of fresh asparagus, any woody bits removed and roughly chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a heaped dessertspoon of chopped fresh mint. (The fresh mint really changes it – it’s not essential  but really worth adding)
Take the pan off the heat and put a lid on it to conserve the heat.

Assembling:

  • Cook the pasta in the pot of boiling water until it rises to the surface, which will be in about 2 minutes.
  • Reserve a little of the cooking water and drain the pasta, then return it to the hot pot.
  • Blend a little of the cooking water in with the carbonara sauce to make a cream consistency, then gently toss it through the pasta in the hot pot. Put the lid on and leave for a minute for the egg to just coddle a little and thicken the sauce.
  • Add the vegetables, toss through and serve, with a grating of parmesan and black pepper on top.

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pea hoummus

Thanks to all those who commented. You made my mind up for me! I resolved the eat-it-or-plant-it dilemma by splitting the difference.  I saved some for seed, not enough for the whole of next year’s planting, which will give me a good excuse to keep looking for the variety I lost a few years ago, but enough plant a couple of rounds. Not enough to grow snow pea sprouts, but I like that idea so much I’m going to deliberately grow enough for sprouting next year, but start sprouting them a bit earlier while the weather is still cool enough.

So after putting this little bag aside, I cooked up the rest.  They made a lovely little tub of hummus that we’ll eat on our sandwiches for lunch all week. Hummus is really low GI, so it’s a good breakfast or lunch food, keeps your blood sugar nice and high and stable.  Combined with the grain in bread, it’s a pretty complete protein, and a good source of lots of vitamins and minerals. Peas are also rich in a phytonutrient called coumestrol, which is good for preventing osteoporosis along with several kinds of cancer, and lowering cholesterol at the same time.

The Recipe:

Cook ¾ cup of dried peas – traditionally chick peas (garbanzos), but you can use any kind of pea – till very soft.  This is fastest in a pressure cooker, but just boiling works fine.  How long it will take depends on how fresh the peas are.  The older and drier they are, the longer they will take.  These ones were quite dry but relatively fresh, and they took 20 minutes in the pressure cooker.

If you use a pressure cooker, don’t overfill it and don’t turn it up too high.  The peas have skins that separate from them and can clog up the pressure valve if they boil too furiously.

When the peas are cooked, drain them but keep the liquid.

Use a stick blender, blender, food processor, or a mouli to blend the cooked peas with with:

  • 2 dessertspoons of tahini
  • 2 dessertspoons of lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • enough of the pea cooking water to make it a smooth paste consistency. (If I am making it for a dip, I add a bit more and make it a little thinner than if I am making it for a spread).
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I picked the first of the peas this morning (late because the mice got so many of the early plantings)  and I have been waiting for them for just this recipe.   Super fast and easy, very low GI, very delicious.  Very fresh peas are so sweet, this is almost a sweet paste spread.  Besides all the usual legume nutrients, peas are rich in a phytonutrient called coumestrol, which is good for preventing osteoporosis along with several kinds of cancer, and lowering cholesterol at the same time.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

The Recipe

For three laden slices of toast:

  • Pressure cook two-thirds of a cup of fresh, shelled peas in ¼ cup of water with a pinch of salt for just 3 minutes.  (Don’t go longer or the water will boil dry and they’ll burn).  If you don’t have a pressure cooker,  you can simmer the peas in a bit more water, in a pot with a tight fitting lid, for about 9 minutes.  You should end up with very soft peas and no water.
  • Blend the cooked peas with a teaspoon of olive oil and quite a lot of fresh mint – I use about 20 leaves.
  • Spread on good wholemeal toast and enjoy.

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Today it’s wet and cold.  All of  a sudden the weather has changed and you can really feel the winter in the air.  I guess it’s only a week and a half now until the southern hemisphere Halloween, which marks the last of the traditional autumn harvest festivals and the start the season of reflecting and remembering.

The solar hot water system wasn’t up to the job of creating a hot shower to come in to from a wet and muddy garden today, so I lit the slow combustion stove this morning.  I have had the bread proving on the shelf above it and yoghurt in the warming oven all day, and now a tray of vegetables roasting in the oven.  My son has been visiting and I waved him off with a “care package” of garden produce this morning, and we had friends visit and I made a garden salad for lunch.  Just enough time this afternoon to plant the fruiting annual seeds in trays in the shadehouse.

I’ve planted a tray of Telephone peas, one of Oregon Dwarf Snow Peas, one of Diggers Climbing Snow Peas, and one of Aquadulce Broad Beans.  The Aquadulce were chosen because they are an early variety, and this far north our broad bean season is short.  The Oregon Dwarf are not really a dwarf – up to 1.5 metres tall according to the packet.  I choose climbing varieties these days to make double use of my fortress fencing, but these are supposed to be mildew resistant, and I am hoping they are the variety that I lost year before last. Someone commented on that post that Oregon Dwarf had done really well for them in Melbourne.  The Diggers are insurance – a tall climbing snow pea – because we like snow peas!

I have planted them in paper pots, (or tubes really)  in a mixture of compost, creek sand and ash.  I add quite a lot of wood ash to the mix for peas and beans – about two-thirds of a bucket for these four trays of mix.  Peas and beans like a more alkali soil and ash helps bring the Ph up.  I shall dig in a bit more ash when I plant them out in about a month’s time. For now all the fence-trellises are occupied with beans and cucumbers.

Ah Sunday!

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I’m right at the edge of the climate range for broad beans.  I have to plant them as soon as it gets cool enough, and hope that they are ready to harvest before spring really takes hold.  They’re not my favourite green vegetable – they take too much peeling to get to the double peeled green beans.  But these very young ones, sauteed with peas and kale, butter and lots of garlic make it them worth the growing.

There’s a knob of butter and just a couple of tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pot.  I shall put the lid on and cook, holding the lid on and shaking the pot frequently, for about 5 minutes until most of the liquid is evaporated and the beans are tender.  And serve with roasted organic free range chicken and winter vegetables.

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I just realised the photo I have taken of these is practically the same as the Spinach and Feta Omelette Pikelets a few months ago, and not too dissimilar to the Sweet Corn and Capsicum Omelette Pikelets back in autumn.  That is because some version of this recipe is one of our weekend brunch staples.  They are  such a great healthy, filling, tasty, low calorie idea that I have tried the concept on whatever is in season lots of times over.

The result is a few combinations that work really well, and this is one of them.  I am picking lots of fresh peas from the garden now.  I’d like to be able to let some dry on the plant to save for making hummus and pakoras, but it looks like this year and this variety will succumb to powdery mildew before then, so I’m making the most of them while they last.

This recipe makes a dozen omelette pikelets with just three eggs.

The Recipe:

Shell 1½ cups of peas and  cook them in boiling lightly salted water for a few minutes until tender. With fresh peas this will take only 3 or 4 minutes.

Finely chop about half a cup of spring onion, greens and whites, and half a cup of fresh mint.

Separate the yolks and whites of three eggs.

Use a potato masher to lightly crush the drained peas, then mix them with the egg yolks and the spring onion and mint.

Whisk the egg whites with an egg beater until they are light and fluffy.  An old fashioned egg beater will do this in literally 20 seconds. Fold them into the pea mix, along with a scant tablespoon of wholemeal self raising flour.

Drop tablespoons of the mixture into a pan with just a little olive oil, and fry on a medium flame till they are set and golden.

They are good with something with a bit of tanginess on the side – a slice of lemon or lime, a tomato salsa, chutney or chilli jam.

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Cooking vegetables in my mother’s generation meant boiling them until they gave up.  I am an eldest child, my partner is a youngest, so his mother was a generation older.  Her version of chokos was boiled until they liquified. No wonder  as kids we weren’t great fans of vegetables!

It is amazing how much food culture we learn, for good and bad, as children.  Few of us boil veggies silly these days, but still the tendency is to serve them, more often than not, steamed or boiled as a side dish.

Nowadays I quite often make a meal that features vegetables as the main, not the side dish, and I very rarely use any water that will be drained off.  If you garden, fresh vegetables are so gorgeous that it is hard to improve on just serving them as themselves. One of the very first posts I did in this blog was Roast Vegetables as Themselves. This time of year, there are so many greens so perfectly in season that greens as themselves are worth a recipe.

This is the way I most commonly cook green veggies, as a side dish and quite often as the main with some haloumi sticks or good bread on the side.

The Recipe

Very simply, use very fresh broccoli flowerettes, peas, snow peas, celery, silver beet, kale, zucchini, and or any other green vegetables in season. Trim them and put them in a pot with a tight fitting lid.  Add a little swig of olive oil or a small knob of butter and just a little pinch of salt.  If you like,  crush in a couple of cloves of garlic and a good grating of black pepper.

Squeeze in some lemon juice – for this bowl of greens I used the juice from half a small lemon.  Add a very small amount – a dessertspoon or so – of water.

Put the lid on the pot and cook for about 3 minutes.  Every 20 seconds or so, hold the lid on tight and give the pot a good shake.  Try not to peek or you will let the steam escape.  Ideally by the time they are cooked there is just a nice little amount of juice as sauce and a hint of caramelisation in the pot.

Like the roast vegetables, it really needs nothing else.  With some fingers of haloumi cheese and some good bread this is a meal all on its own, and it’s really worth just appreciating vegetables as themselves.

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Today and tomorrow are fruiting planting days according  to the lunar calendar, and I’ve been hanging out for these ones because finally it is pea planting season!  I’m planting Telephone climbing peas and Melting Mammoth snow peas.

I love beans, specially snake beans, but by this stage I am starting to get over them.  I have enough in now to keep producing for another month, but I won’t be planting any more till Spring. And it is also past the end of the planting season for all the summer fruiting vegies – zucchini, squash, cucumbers, eggplants, capsicums – cherry tomatoes are the only ones I will keep going into winter.  It is a bit early yet for broad beans, so for this break it’s all about peas!

However, I don’t yet have room out along the garden fence-trellises for the peas.  The older beans are still producing mature beans for drying, and I have a few more weeks of production left in the Continental cucumbers.  Raising seedlings in the shadehouse and planting out mature seedlings is a major strategy of labour and space economy.

For large seeds like peas, it is not worth the seed germinating stage.  I plant directly into a seedling raising mix that is mostly good compost with a bit of creek sand for drainage.  For alkaline lovers like peas and beans I add a bit of wood ash to raise the pH.  For the peas I have made little newspaper tubes to plant into. You can see how below. I have planted three seeds in each and will weed out the weakest.  They will grow very happily in the shadehouse for several weeks, safe from most pests and from being forgotten and fatally neglected, giving me another fortnight’s production from what is now living in their future home.

When it is time to plant them out, I’ll add a bit more compost and wood ash to the site, then dig a little hole and plant each pair of seedlings, complete with their paper tube.  The worms will eat the paper, and it means I can plant very advanced seedlings with almost no transplant shock.



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