There are many wonderful dishes made around the world using dried peas in a variety of ingenious ways. Britain's contribution is to soak marrowfat peas overnight, boil the little buggers into a gloopy slop, add salt and colour them a lurid, radioactive green. There should be no earthly reason why any one would ever willingly eat this; yet if I'm having fish and chips they simply have to be accompanied by mushy peas.
I was going to include a recipe for them but, really, what's the point? You're only going to go and buy a tin of the stuff. And, quite frankly, so am I. In the supermarket, dried marrowfat peas were £1.96/kg. An own label tin of mushy peas was 57p/kg. I went the deluxe route and bought a tin from Harry Ramsden's for 45p. I should declare that I foppishly enlivened the peas with mint, lemon juice and black pepper. This is dangerously close to the other option - a purée, using frozen peas or petit pois. There's a story that a man in Lancashire once served this to a group of family and close friends. I understand he now lives in Bangkok. I include his recipe - serve it at your peril.
I've also included a 'cheat's' recipe for tartare sauce using a good quality bought mayonnaise (which is a long-winded way of saying 'Hellmann's').
The last time I went to a chip shop I had haddock, chips and mushy peas and it cost me £10.50 (I ate in; a takeaway would have been £8.50). The meal was shite - the chips were dry and undercooked and the batter was translucent and flabby. The meal here, including allowances for each and every ingredient (assuming the oil is re-used a few times) cost about £3.50 for one person. And was delicious.
fish in batter
1 coley fillet
salt + black pepper
80g plain flour, plus some for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
a good pinch of salt
about 100ml water (you can use sparkling water or soda water if you want)
about 1.5 litres of sunflower oil
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Whisk in the water until you have a thick, smooth batter. Heat the oil to 160C (I'd definitely recommend using a thermometer here). Season the fish fillet, dust with flour and dip into the batter, making sure it is evenly coated. Fry for approximately 8 minutes, until wonderfully golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
_large king edward or maris piper potatoes olive or groundnut oil
coarse sea salt
Peel or not - it's up to you. Cut each potato into 8 to 12 wedges, depending on the size of the potato and how chunky you want your chips to be. You want the curved edges still just wide enough so they'll stand up in the roasting tin. Put in a colander and steam over boiling water, covered, for about 10 minutes. Remove and leave to dry. If you think the chips are robust enough, shake the colander to fluff them up a bit. Other wise, scrape gently with the tines of a fork. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C. Brush the bottom of a roasting tray with oil; put the potato wedges in curved side down and drizzle with more oil. A few will break up during cooking/turning. No matter - more crispy bits. Roast for about 40 minutes, turning a couple of times. If they are not golden and crisp by this time, whack up the oven to its hottest setting for a few minutes. Season with sea salt.
southern jessy mushy peas
150ml chicken stock
100g frozen peas or petit pois
1 dsp chopped mint
salt + black pepper
Simmer the peas in the stock until tender. Drain and mash or blitz the peas. Beat in the butter, season and stir in the mint.
quick tartare sauce
3 tbsps mayonnaise
1 dsp capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 dsp finely chopped gherkin
1 spring onion, finely chopped
a drop or two of dijon mustard
a little squeeze of lemon juice
Mix the first five ingredients together. Add lemon juice to taste and season with black pepper.
SHORTLISTED FOR FOOD BLOG OF THE YEAR 2014