Friday, 24 June 2011

A nugget of the purest green

We didn’t eat many meals together as a family when our children were just learning to eat solid foods. This was because DH was working long hours and was rarely home to see – let alone eat with – the children and because I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t make food that satisfied their needs and tastes as well as my own (now is not the time or the place to have the conversation about how dieting WRECKS LIVES, though).

I wish I’d had Nikki Duffy’s book back then. Nikki (who happens to be a former colleague) has written a fantastic book (under the aegis of River Cottage) all about feeding babies and toddlers and it’s crammed with useful, reassuring, practical and pragmatic advice, as well as some really, really terrific recipes. I plan to write in more detail about the book in a future post BUT suffice it to say that the most iron-clad advice that she gives and that anybody could give anybody about feeding young children is MAKE THEM EAT WHAT YOU EAT FROM AN EARLY AGE.

So I – clearly – feel like I’ve already failed in this regard, even if the two of us dining together regularly (telly off, candle on table, good bottle of wine) has felt like a sanity-saver on occasion. But I think what I mean to say here is that if I was eating regularly with a young child, this – as well as the amazing recipes in Nikki’s book - is what I would be making.
Of course it’s nothing to do with me, it’s that brilliant lady from Smitten Kitchen again with her beguiling photography and enticing recipes (an approach that you’ll note I’ve decided to eschew here).

It’s peas fresh from the pod, boiled really briefly and then whizzed with toasted pine nuts, parmesan, and olive oil (I added a bit of mint, too) and the result is a nugget of the purest green. Percy would have been in awe. It’s really summer on a spoon. I stirred this into linguine, as suggested by Deb, but it would be equally good – if not better – on a crostini (a theory I plan to test at my book club summer party). I also can’t help but think that if, in the deepest, darkest, depths of winter, the soul should cry out for a taste of times to come, a bag of frozen petits pois might step into the fresh pea breach. We’ll have to see, but in the meantime, while peas nestle snugly in their pods on market stalls and in shops, give this a go.

Pea pesto (adapted in a fairly reckless way – I didn’t look at quanties, for example – from Smitten Kitchen). This quantity would serve 6 easily, I should think.

450g peas from the pod (this was the yield from 1kg in their pods)
75g parmesan, grated
30g pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan and allowed to cool
150ml olive oil
leaves from a couple of sprigs of mint, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the peas in rapidly boiling, salted water, for a couple of minutes (you want them to retain both their bright green colour and a touch of ‘bite’) then drain and cool under running water. Put in a food processor along with the other ingredients and blitz to a thick puree. Season to taste. Serve stirred through some linguine (add some of the cooking water back into the mix to help the puree adhere to the pasta) and topped with perhaps a touch more parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil and a twist or two of black pepper.

Note: I've just realised the Smitten Kitchen recipe had garlic in it! I forgot to put it in mine! Feel free to add a clove if you like but I honestly am not sure it needs it. Perhaps I'll try it with, next time. And, oh yes, there will be a next time.

Family-friendliness rating: Of course, the baby food analogy didn’t escape my Beautiful Girl. “MUM! It’s got BABY food on it!” She ate it pretty happily, though. Gorgeous Boy was harder to persuade IN SPITE of the fact that peas are one of the few vegetables he will happily eat. In the interests of family harmony I might simply save him some peas to have with his (plain) linguini next time. Spoilsport.

Cleanup rating: Not great (food processor, a couple of pans, etc) but sooooo worth it…

Can you freeze it? I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to test this out but regular (basil) pesto is freezable, so I don’t see why this shouldn’t be?

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