There are rumours abound that certain people do not like certain foodstuffs. I don't mean a person who hates, say, a multi-coloured chemical filled sherbet bag from the sweet shop or something. That would be understandable. What I mean is, apparently there are people who stalk this earth with a hatred of the humble pea. And it ain't no joke. Step forward Sir Freddie of Great Big Vegetable Challenge fame - your tremendous vegetable learning curve is about to be put even more to the test.
The pea to me was a vegetable I could stomach as a child. To people who know me now, it may shock them to know that when I was a small person, I was incredibly fussy. For a number of years, processed cheese triangles were my number one choice and anything else was dismissed. With the exceptions of peas. For some reason, those bland watery marrowfat peas out of tins were okay to me. I would eat them much to the amazement of my folks. And as time went on, and I became more adventurous in my food to the extent that now I will eat anything that grows, moves or sneezes, I still held the pea in great esteem.
The pea is a great thing. Sweet and succulent, edible in its raw state or boiled to smithereens, it is also adaptable and seems to work in most creations. That dangerous and well used phrase in cookery terms, 'Throw in a handful of ...', is a phrase I have used for years with peas, simply so that I can get some of my favourite little green balls on the plate. I eat them like sweets when they are growing on vines like little cocoons of pleasure, and I eat them in a thousand different soups during the frozen pea season.
Now Freddie is a little fella who needs no introduction. With the aid of his caring, creative and determined mother Charlotte, Freddie has been on the most precarious and steepest of learning curves that any young man could wish for. With a disdain for vegetables, the pea being his most hated of veggie foes, Freddie has worked his way through a whole mountain of things that come out of soil and has been a minor miracle in this world of fast food nonsense. And as I work with children and food on a daily basis, Freddie has become a kind of bastion of light to me, a little mascot to prove that ANYBODY can change their world and make it a better place if they can get over a hatred of vegetables.
But rumours still continue. And the rumbles I hear are that Freddie still holds huge suspicion for our little green friend. For that reason, a mission impossible has been set for me and 2 of my fellow food bloggers; Amanda of Figs, Olives, Wine and Hannah of Hannah's Country Garden. On what has now become known as pea Monday, we have all written a recipe or two in a huge effort to hold cyber hands and try to encourage Freddie to start to love the pea. All of this will cumulate into a Pea Party for Freddie and his friends to celebrate the green one in a variety of guises. So I have decided to dedicate my whole week to the pea, as I'm not sure in what form it is best to show Freddie the delights of a pea. Should it look like a pea or not?
I begin with my mission with a Paella, or a 'Pea'ella. Nothing unusual, nothing flash and nothing too scary. Just a huge pan of paella will feed Freddie and lots of friends, and I also think that this Spanish classic is the perfect no fuss food that can be experimented with at will. Peas scatter this flavour packed beauty, and there is no escaping them, but if you are going to learn to love a pea you need to look it in the eye and say, 'I love you pea', then swallow it whole and savour the combination of saffron and paprika that goes hand in hand with this fantastic child friendly dish. The mission has started. Turning Freddie's pea nightmares into sweet pea dreams. I sense it will not be an easy peasy week....
A Pea Packed Paella
Feeds lots of young Freddies
300g long grain rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 red and 1 green pepper, chopped into large chunks
3 large tomatoes, chopped roughly
2 chicken breasts, sliced into small lengths
1 medium chorizo sausage into small chunks
A large pinch of saffron
2 tspns smoked paprika
A pinch of chilli powder
A bag of frozen prawns, defrosted
As many frozen peas as you can handle
Fresh basil and parsley
Lemon juice (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
1 - In a large pan, heat the olive oil then add the chicken and quickly brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2 - Add the onion, peppers and chorizo to the pan and stir fry for 5 minutes until starting to soften and colour.
3 - Add the tomatoes, saffron, paprika, chilli and rice and stir for 1 minute. Then return the chicken and pour on boiling water to just cover the rice.
4 - Bring to the boil then put a lid on and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring gently from time to time to ensure that the rice is cooking evenly. You mya need to keep topping up with water.
5 - For the final 5 minutes, add the prawns and peas and heat through thoroughly. Taste for seasoning, then add the optional lemon juice.
6 - Serve in bowls with a good scattering of fresh herbs and a slice of lemon.