Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Spiced Peas with Fresh Mint

Shelling fresh English peas is a therapeutic act. Opening up each pod, and removing the delicately attached bright green peas is incredibly satisfying. Shelling the peas is almost as nice as eating them once they've been shelled. While most frozen things pale in comparison to their fresh counterparts, peas are actually an exception, and they are quite good even when obtained in frozen form. I still prefer fresh peas (for their previous mentioned gift of therapy), but frozen peas are a perfectly good substitute.

Peas are great with butter and salt, in a pasta sauce or risotto, or added to a salad. They don't need much to be wonderful, but if you want to make them the star of your dish, they lend themselves extraordinarily well to traditional Indian spices. 

This is a riff on an Indian recipe I tried at some point but can't remember where/when. I am no Indian cooking expert, so forgive my spice shortcuts, and my inauthentic approach. These peas are lovely served simply on a bed of Basmati rice, and I'm sure they'd be great as a side to a more elaborate meal. I added lots of fresh mint because I love it,  had some, and mint is a friend of peas; but I believe the dish might be even better with fresh cilantro. 

The other thing that should be noted is that you need A LOT of pea pods to get a meager amount of shelled peas. About a pound of fresh peas equaled a cup of shelled peas. That can get pricey, so again, frozen peas are a very good choice if fresh aren't available or are too expensive. 

Spiced Peas with Mint
Serves 4

1.5 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter), or you can use a mixture of butter and olive oil, or coconut oil
2 medium shallots, diced fine
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1.5 pounds fresh English peas, shelled (about 1.5 cups)
1/4 cup freshly chopped mint or cilantro or both

In a pan on medium high heat, warm the ghee. Add the shallots to the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Cook the shallots until they start to soften and become translucent, about 2 minutes Add the Garam Masala, cardamom, cumin, and coriander. Continue to cook the shallots with the spices until they begin to caramelize just slightly, but you don't want them to burn or crisp. Add the fresh peas to the pan, and add about a 1/4 cup of water or stock. Once the water is evaporated, and the peas look bright bright green, and are plump and tender, turn off the heat. Add the fresh mint or cilantro.

Serve fresh as a side dish, or on a bed of freshly made Basmati rice!

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