Frozen peas were a standard side dish when I was a kid. They were OK; I ate them without any major protests. In the grand scheme of things I found objectionable, peas got a pass. One year we grew fresh peas in the backyard, quite the feat in the Phoenix heat, and were blown away by how delicious they were. But honestly, shelling peas is a lot of work and you needed a lot of pods to get enough peas to feed a family of four. One and done; I don’t think we grew them again after that year. Though I’m loath to say it out loud, opening a bag of frozen peas is easier and though not quite as tasty as fresh, they’re still pretty good. I’m probably going to lose my chef card over that. Whatever.
As an adult, I’ve been known to use frozen peas now and again. They’re a necessity in a chicken pot pie and my simplest spring pea soup ever certainly deserves a try. Let’s not forget my ever popular parmesan pea dip made with a bag or two. But let’s all talk about the best use for a bag of frozen peas in the history of frozen peas: cold compress. Bum knee? Peas. The blurry edges of an oncoming migraine? Peas. The after effects of a night of overindulgence? Peas. That alone is reason to keep a bag in the freezer at all times.
Hangovers cures aside, let’s get back to peas as an edible item. While I’ve never quite understood the British fascination with “mushy peas”, I’ve never pushed them away either. Mashed peas? Who does that on purpose? Then not long ago I stumbled upon something new to me called “Macho Peas”. I was sitting in a meeting where lunch was brought in from a fairly new-to-town South African restaurant chain called Nando’s. While typically known for their spicy peri-peri chicken I was immediately drawn to the small square containers on the table containing a bright green … well, mush. What was this?
Peas. Peas mashed with a little chile and mint. They were delicious. I pushed my sandwich aside and went a little crazy with those peas. What a curious discovery. But what kind of name is “macho peas” anyway? The similarity with “mushy peas” was there; maybe this was Nando’s spin on a traditional British dish with a better name? Sure.
Last week, as yet another bag of stuff tumbled out of my jam-packed freezer and onto my feet; I looked closely at what was resting on my big toe. Peas. Frozen peas. Hmmm. I had chilies. I had mint. I had a potato masher. Why not?
This is a pretty simple dish to smash together: “cook” the peas (warm up, really), stir in butter, the aforementioned chilies and mint, a good pinch of salt and pepper and mash those suckers up. A good half mash is what you’re looking for. Maybe that mashing effort is where the “macho” comes in? I’m not really sure what that means and frankly, I think it’s a bit odd so I’ve renamed my version something much more mundane. Because I’m a joy killer.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: MASH IT UP. These are easy, tasty and a fantastic accompaniment to just about anything, particularly something grilled. If you have a bag of peas in the freezer, it comes together in no time. Speaking of frozen vegetables, I can’t in good conscience not mention the gigantic frozen vegetable recall. Check you freezer stocks against this list from the FDA. Throw out or return those code/lot numbers ASAP. I’ve even heard Costco is emailing customers who have purchased vegetables under the affected codes. That is how you handle a recall my friends.
Seven years ago: Chino Farms Strawberries
Six years ago: Almond Tea Cake (my friend calls this “THE Cake”)
Five years ago: Smoky Ginger Bacon Cookies
Four years ago: Coconut Layer Cake, Ramp Green Kimchi
Three years ago: Scallion Pancakes, Rendering Lard
Two years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise
Last year: Crispy Prosciutto (these are quite spectacular with this Parmesan Pea Dip)
MASHED PEAS WITH CHILE AND MINT
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 package frozen peas (16 ounces)
1-2 fresh small red chiles, finely minced (about 1 teaspoon, give or take)
1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh mint leaves
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
kosher salt & ground black pepper
- Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the peas for 3-4 minutes until bright green and warmed through.
- Drain the peas and return to the pot.
- Add the minced chili, mint and the butter, and a good pinch each of salt and black pepper, stirring to combine.
- With a potato masher, mash the peas roughly, leaving some whole. It’s a sort of half mash.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Serve warm.