Saturday, 15 January 2011
Pea Soup Made with Blue-Pod Capucijner Peas
Well, no recipe here, this is more of a varietal report, but I thought I would comment about this dish of pea soup. Yes, that really is pea soup.
We grew the peas in our garden this summer. They were Blue Pod Capucijner peas, which have become readily available from seed companies in the last few years. Thanks to the fact that the deer got in and ate half the plants when they were half-grown, we did not get a bumper harvest of peas - just enough to make one fairly small pot of soup. However, in general these are supposed to have a very good yield.
The peas have a romantic history - they were grown by by Capuchin monks in Flandres and Holland as early as the 1500's - and they are attractive plants with pink blossoms and purple-flushed pods. When dry, the peas are oddly shaped, wrinkled and a dull but strong brownish colour. Similar strains of peas were, and still are, found throughout northern Europe. They are still popular in Dutch cooking, although I have never seen them for sale here: if you want them, you will have to grow your own. The Dutch cook them with bacon and onions, and serve them with pickles.
Growing the peas was quite straightforward; we planted them perhaps a little later than our other peas since there was no rush to get them in, as we wanted them dry. On the other hand, they can go in with the other peas. Like them they will be very cold-tolerant, and if you get them finished soon enough you could plant some lettuce or spinach after them. They grew all season, and apart from the unfortunate incident with the deer were a simple and troublefree crop to grow. Shelling them was a bit tedious but again, quite easy.
So, how were they?
Well, they were... interesting. They were really not like peas at all, in my opinion. They looked more like little round beans than peas. I started off by cooking them in water (and cooking them, and cooking them) and they cooked much more like beans than peas, that is to say slowly. Once they were cooked they had a bland, mealy texture and rather tough little hides. They were not nearly as sweet as most Canadian strains of soup peas. In other words, they were very bean-like.
At this point I put them into a quart of very lovely ham stock, and cooked them some more. This time I mashed them roughly to break up those tough skins some more. I added carrot, celeriac, onion and leek, all diced and cooked down in a little ham fat to the soup. Seasoning was simple, just a few herbs. The result, I have to say, was far more delicious than I had been expecting from our first taste of the plain cooked peas. Still, that was such good ham stock I think you could have cooked anything in it and gotten good soup.
Would I grow these again? Yes, I think I would. We aren't going to grow them next year though. There are so many other types of peas and beans to try. And while we enjoyed them, I think they were not the ultimate dried soup pea.