Sunday, 24 February 2013

& some mushy peas with that please

The mushy pea. Or, realistically, mushy peas. Once the mush has happened, it would be hard to find them in the singular.



Like marmite, they divide people.

I will never forget the day my mum took my French exchange and I for a day trip into the Dales. We stopped at a pub for lunch, and my adventurous Gallic chum insisted on having whatever was traditional. We deliberated and explained as best we could. In the end she selected the 'pork pie and peas'. Mum and I exchanged glances. In truth, whatever we might have been expecting, a cold, whole pork pie floating in a sea of mushy peas was not it. Nor was it anything that Sonia could have envisaged - marrowfat peas - green mature peas that have been allowed to dry out naturally in the field - soaked overnight then simmered with salt and pepper to make a thick green 'soup'. After 2 weeks in the south of France a year previously, introduced to the delights of steak fondue, merguez flavours, wonderful cheese, and this is how repay her in terms of English gastronomy? I cringed.

For the record, though, she ate it with gusto (for all its strangeness, it tasted pretty amazing) - it's no wonder the exchange was such a success and we are still in touch.

A few years later, I worked in a tiny rural pub in my own corner of Yorkshire to pay a bit of my way through law school. Fran in the kitchen would eat mushy peas mixed with vinegar and black pepper. Bowlsful. Nothing else (apart from the squirty cream for the desserts which she squirted onto a plate and ate with a spoon. Classy, she was - I squirted it onto my finger).

They seem to be a peculiarly Northern taste.



Sure, they can be purchased at establishments across the country, but they aren't taken seriously.  Recently, with the gastro-pub revolution, mushy peas have become something of a retro curiosity, pimped up by our favourite celebrity chefs: Nigella likes hers made with petits pois and creme fraiche. Hugh's are tarted up with garlic and chives Jamie adds mint. That's all well and good, but I've never found them embraced in the the same way as in a decent Yorkshire chippy.

An almost smoky unctuousness; easy to eat; comforting. You can tell which camp I fall into.

On Thursday, Pink and I indulged ourselves. Haddock & chips. Bread & butter. A pot of tea (with cups & saucers and hot water to top up). And mushy peas. In a separate bowl. A portion each. Sigh.



18 comments:

  1. I am now craving mushy peas. Proper, Northern mushy peas. The local chippies serve up something that resembles slightly overcooked whole peas in a runny liquid, not proper mush at all.

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    1. Ah Jane, the ones we had on Thursday were just that. Proper thick mushy peas. They were grand.

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  2. Ee, lass. Pie and pea supper is grand!

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  3. Man alive RJ - fish, chips, pot of tea and mushy peas... my idea of heaven! I find a lot of southerners don't get them (Tony Blair apparently ask for some "of that guacamole" when trying to be a man of the people in a northern chippy) but they are missing out on a sublime treat. Try a bit of mango chutney in them. Sounds weird but it works!

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    1. But isn't Blair supposed to be a northerner?? I do prefer the idea that it was Mandelson. I am intrigued by what they'd taste like with mango chitney, although the Wetherby Whaler was all out of Indian condiments on Thursday!

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  4. I'm from Yorkshire and I love mushy peas! But I never think to do them at the home, the only time I have them is on one of our rare visits to the chippy. Then my Londoner husband stares at the green gunge as though I'm mad to even contemplate eating it!

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    1. My husband's a southerner too - he looks as if me as if he can't quite understand why he married me when i eat them.

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  5. I haven't had mushy peas for years!! thanks so much for reminding me!! lovely :)
    Mary x

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    1. :-) on your next trip back, perhaps? I can't imagine you get anything similar in the States?

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  6. I think it was Mandelson with the mushy pea/guacamole thing, and probably apocryphal, but it's a good story and ought to have happened.

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    1. Yes, I googled, and it was Mandelson. I hope it did happen!

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  7. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner but adore mushy peas. What I hate is restaurants that try and zhuzh them up by adding mint...without telling you in advance. Minted peas are the work of the devil!

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  8. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner but adore mushy peas. What I don't like is restaurants that try and zhuzh them up by adding mint without telling you on the menu. Minted peas are truly the work of the devil!

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  9. Ohhh hello! I love mushy peas with loads of vinegar and salt. In the reverse I made a guacamole for our engagement party and a few people said that it was the weirdest mushy peas they'd ever had - but nice all the same! R.J you are way classier than me - I spray the squirty cream straight into my gob!

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  10. I love them and couldn't eat a chip shop chip butty without them. I make them now for a pub I cook for, and a tip that was passed on to me which apparently came from one of the chippies in Caroline Street, Cardiff (aka chip alley) was a pinch of sugar at the end. Makes a difference.

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