It took me years to cotton on to the fact that the pea had become a socially acceptable, nay, desirable, vegetable. Through my childhood, peas and baked beans were inevitably offered as the fall-back vegetable in any children's meal, with the result that when I went to university I thought peas were totally naff. I forgot about them for a few years whilst experimenting with more unusual ingredients; they were simply off my radar, unless someone served me them, which to be honest didn't happen because in the nineties everyone was serving mangetout and sugar snaps, or butternut squash if they were a bit adventurous. At some point I realized that peas had resurfaced in the collective culinary consciousness but I couldn't subscribe to it; I carried on with my fresh greens, ignoring the frozen pea as the vegetable equivalent of a frozen ready meal. I can't remember when epiphany happened - perhaps I bought peas to serve with shepherd's pie, or perhaps in order to make a pea puree - but ever since that forgotten moment, I've kept a bag of frozen petits pois in my freezer, and when wondering what to make as a side dish, particularly for chicken or fish, I often opt for blitzed peas with mint or basil. Try it; it's easy but addictive and a bit chic (although I write as one with little idea, culinarily speaking, of what chic might look like).
I hadn't made this recipe, for minted peas in olive oil, despite the not-to-be-sneezed-at convenience factor of frozen peas, because the blurb calls it a summer dish and that put me off temporarily. In my defence, frozen peas make it an environmentally sound way of eating summer food in the winter; no courgettes or asparagus have been flown across the world to indulge me this time. The dish is rewardingly simple: place peas in a saucepan and cover with a bunch of fresh mint. Pour in boiling water and return to the boil; simmer for a couple of minutes. Drain, transfer to a dish, season and add either lemon juice or wine vinegar (I went for lemon juice) and then cover with good extra virgin olive oil. Leave for at least half an hour for the flavours to infuse and serve.
These peas were nice - they had a good flavour - but they didn't blow me away. I think they might, in the summer; they just don't feel quite right for February. I served them with parmesan chicken; I think they deserved a more delicate plate-fellow. I think I'll have to try them again later in the year.
Oh, and I know it's Shrove Tuesday, aka Pancake Day. I am not really a pancake person so this may be the only foodie festival I don't eagerly await. Nor - confession-time now - do I ever give anything up for Lent. That said, I look forward to reading about other people's pancakes. My friend's little boy loves pancakes more than anything else, and was once allowed a pancake when he was feeling sick and didn't feel like the food everyone else was having. Since then, he sometimes asks for pancakes and, when his request is denied, he rubs his stomach and says 'but I feel sick, so I need a pancake'. Shrove Tuesday must be food heaven for him, but for me, roll on Easter lamb and - most importantly of all - the end of term!