Ed Smith shares his tips on food to feed friends, family and self with minimal effort, using little but the best of Borough’s carefully grown and procured produce. This time: peas and goat’s curd
It had been a few weeks since my last Market visit, when I stopped by to browse and shop for the first post in this Borough Market platters series, so I was excited to see the gradual shift of seasonal produce: asparagus (last month’s focus) was still plentiful but also screaming ‘not here for much longer!’; stone fruit and berries season is clearly about to burst out (something for next month, perhaps?), and, I noted, there were a plethora of peas in their pods and buckets of fresh herbs too. Interesting…
(To remind you of the rules: £15 budget to feed a few, minimal effort once home—a little slicing or peeling, a blanch or a simmer at most (but often not)—and a relatively spontaneous, produce-inspired rather than list-led shop.)
Once I’d completed my loop of the Market I returned to those peas. Podding them requires a little effort, yes, but the pay-off is significant: sweet and, when left raw, crunchy green pearls that taste precisely of early British summertime.
I stopped at Ted’s Veg, quite probably because their slanted box full of peas on the outside of the stall sat beckoning (top marks to the person in charge of point of sale). But while bagging a few handfuls, I had one of those cook’s panics about quantity. How many peas are in a pod? How many peas does a platter need? The answer, I felt, was to take a loose approach to my pea purchasing and grab a few fists of sugar snap peas too.
What else should a pea platter involve? Fresh herbs are essential, with mint being the obvious choice—for good reason. Again, Ted’s display person was on particularly tempting form as a bag of chervil caught my eye when at the till. You need to use chervil generously, as it’ll quickly turn from verdant green to yellow. But that’s fine, as its fine and delicate notes of parsley and tarragon work well when treated virtually as a salad leaf, rather than a seasoning. In addition, I’d spied some nasturtium leaves at Chegworth Valley, which would add a peppery snort to proceedings. I bought a lemon, too, for a dressing.
I felt, though, that the ingredient to really tie things together needed to come from beyond the greengrocer’s stalls. Indeed, fresh cheese would be the answer. Anything from burrata via The Parma Ham and Mozzarella Stand, to ricotta from Kappacasein or a sharp and soft goat’s cheese from Mons Cheesemongers or Une Normande a Londres would be a treat. However, in the end I picked a small tub of goat’s curd from Neal’s Yard Dairy. Slightly sour, tangy, though still soft and creamy with a hint of farmyard. Lovely.
You can probably imagine the process, and it’s not an exact science, but for the record: I used a fine micro plane to grate the zest of the lemon and set that to one side. The peas took a little time to pod, though I didn’t find it a chore while sat down listening to the cricket. (Also, many hands make light work of this sort of thing—and as an aside, 300g yielded close to 200g peas.)
Next, I dropped my 200g of sugar snaps into water at a rolling boil, counted to 10 before draining and plunging them into iced water to ensure they’d still crunch. You can eat them raw, but I find a quick blanch takes away a slightly bitter edge.
Both types of peas were tossed together with, say, a dozen nasturtium leaves, the juice of half a lemon, 3 tbsp grassy olive oil, half tsp sugar, and a good pinch of sea salt. Using scissors, I trimmed into the mix the soft leaves from half the bunch of chervil. All this was rolled onto a platter and topped with curd, lemon zest and a little more chervil.
You could bolster the platter with fresh bread for a simple lunch or starter for 4, or set it alongside other platter salads to make a more substantial meal (tomatoes, new potatoes with herby green sauce, grilled courgettes and aubergines, that sort of thing).