Thursday, 27 October 2011
Love and Peas ( Peas cooked with pancetta and onions-also good with pasta!)
She followed her mother as they crossed the railway line. She had to run fast as she only had little legs. Aged five, her mother called her "La mia coda" "My tail" as the little girl followed her everywhere. It must have been a Spring day, because, as they left the city behind, she could smell wild garlic and she could see little blue irises growing in a little shady corner, on their right. She knew it was Spring, as you could always smell Spring in the air, and her mother smiled a lot!
Eventually they came to a long path, fields on either side, such a contrast from the big city so near, yet so far, already adorned with the gifts of Spring.
An old lady (she thought she must be old!) called Caterina, lived in a white farmhouse. Mamma went inside. She brought bred for Caterina's hens. The rooms inside the farmhouse must have been huge and the ceilings high, as the voices she could hear sounded very loud and far. The little girl sat outside on a step, watching the hens running around, the listening to the chicks and the kittens as they sang a Spring song. Above her a roof kept the already hot sun, at bay. Sat on a step, she closed her eyes and suddenly felt very happy. It was that special, really deep kind of happiness... yes, the kind of happiness which doesn't last very long, but sinks deep, deep, very deep inside your and stays there, so when you grow up you understand what happiness is.
Her mother would come out with Caterina and, after a long chat, the two women would kiss, the little girl would get a smile and a little box of warm eggs, and the three of them would start making their way towards the path, which led back to the big city, so near and yet so far.
Fields on either side were rich with crops: tiny little baby artichokes, just a tiny bit bigger than her mum's thumb were being picked. She looked at Caterina, hoping she would understand... and she always did! " Go on, take some artichokes and some peas!" So... there she was, tiny little city girl, loose in a field encrusted with wonderful green gems. Was she really allowed to take some home? The plants were huge! Then the ritual began: one by one, they picked baby artichokes, and then lovely, sweet, tender little pea pods, a gift of the land and the sun.
Once home, the peas would be shelled. Tiny little five year old handfuls of green balls would be avidly eaten. Most, would end up in mamma's pot, though, to be turned into treasure.
I can still feel that special, really deep kind of happiness inside me, when I remember doing all the things I did with my beautiful mother. Food is special, as it tells stories, it connects you to the past, it reminds you of happy times. It reminds ME of happy times in the sun!
Now I want to share some of that happiness, by cooking my mum's Easter Monday pasta. It's a simple dish, but to me it means a lot more than that.
Here is my recipe:
Piselli con pancetta e cipolla
(Easter Monday Pasta)
(Peas with Onion and Pancetta)
Side dish or pasta sauce
400g ( just under 1lb) peas, fresh or frozen
6tbs olive oil
1 medium onion
100 g pancetta
some flat leaved parsley
1 beaten egg (optional)
This dish is really, really easy. Put some oil in a pan ( you can use more than the suggested amount, if you prefer) and heat it. When you can see there is smoke coming out of it, add your onion which you would have previously chopped. Stir until the onion is slightly brown, then add your pancetta. Again, stir to blend the lovely flavours, then, a couple of minutes later, add all your peas (frozen peas are very good, too!)
Pancetta and onions cooking in the hot olive oil
Stir again, until the peas are coated in hot oil, leave for a couple of minutes or so, then add enough water to cover the peas a bit more. Bring to the boil , then lower the heat and cook until the peas are tender. I like to add half a stock cube, as it deepens the flavour.
You will know your peas are ready when they are firm, but soft. Make sure the liquid doesn't dry out, though. A little sprinkling of roughly chopped fresh parsley makes the dish really interesting and a generous sprinkling of black pepper adds that exotic note and aroma I really love.
If you would like to add a beaten egg to your peas, you can do so, now. But make sure you stir until the egg kind of scrambles. You don't have to have egg, if you don't want to. It's optional. I love it!
The finished dish can be served as a side
This dish can be served as a side dish or, as a kind of a sauce, if you add some chopped first, then cooked, and drained spaghetti and more black pepper to the peas. You can add some of the pasta water if you want the dish less dry.
Pasta with peas (no egg added)
We have this dish all year round, as "Pasta e Piselli" but on Easter Monday it is traditional in my part of Italy to have this as a first course, followed by lamb with peas and artichokes and more delicious Spring time goodies!
Pasta e Piselli
1) No egg 2) With egg
Both versions DELICIOUS!