Home' Scoop : Scoop 53 Spring 2010 Contents 194 scoop SPRING 2010
h, the pea. At first glance, it’s
just an inconspicuous little green
globe, one of many packed into
bags in the supermarket freezer.
But to the experienced eye of É
Cucina head chef Ben Toye, this is a versatile and
perhaps under-recognised vegetable.
“The pea’s used in all sorts of European
cuisines. I’m particularly fond of using the pea in
Italian cooking,” says Ben.
With 15 years experience in the industry,
Ben is no stranger to advanced cooking techniques
and exotic ingredients, yet the humble pea is still
one of his favourites.
The pea’s striking green colour holds appeal
in terms of presentation, but less celebrated is its
great taste. “It’s just so fresh. Its flavour is sweet
without being abrasive and is very complementary.
It can take a lot of big flavours without getting
lost in the mix,” Ben says.
Of course, tracking them down is no problem
– they are readily available both in their pods in
the vegie baskets at markets and supermarkets,
or frozen and bagged in the freezer aisles. Ben
literally goes the extra mile to g et the freshest
ingredients, however. “We get ours delivered
from farms in the Swan Valley,” he says.
Ben recommends keeping things fairly
straightforward with peas, as the world’s cooks
have done for thousands of years.
The pea can be traced all the way back to
ancient Eg ypt and the vegetable has always
been most popular boiled or steamed, cooking
techniques that break down cell walls and release
that delicious flavour and nutrients.
Ben’s favourite way to cook peas is also
relatively no-fuss. “I love to puree peas. Just give
them a boil, throw in some mint leaves then mash
it all together once the ingredients are soft.”
This delightful puree can then be paired with
other ingredients. Ben has a few ideas for some
other spectacular pea-based combinations.
“Drizzle some lemon juice over a cupful
of cooked peas for a bit of tang. Throw some
crushed garlic in with a pea puree to give it a little
bit of oomph,” he sug gests.
For a nice entree, peas can be placed on a plate
alongside a few seared scallops. For something
a little more substantial, however, Ben sug g ests
coupling peas with some smoked pork as part of a
war m, hearty main course.
And let’s not forget that the tiny pea is
overflowing with vitamins, minerals, fibre and
protein. Vitamin K, folic acid and vitamin B6 in
particular are crammed into the little parcels, aiding
in bone structure and heart health.
Pea starch is also used to make bioplastics,
an organic, sustainable alternative to traditional
petroleum-based plastic. So the pea would appear
to have a little bit of everything.
Although Ben searches far and wide for the
best peas for a quality dining experience, he also
has them close to home... in it, in fact.
“Yeah, I’ve actually got some growing in
my kitchen right now,” he admits. “If you plant
them in winter they’re g ood to g o when spring
comes around,” he adds.
And you’ll find that most peas are easy to grow,
too. Just find a g ood patch of alkaline soil, set up
a trellis for them to grow against, plant them and
they basically fend for themselves, provided the
soil stays weeded. So what are you waiting for?
Give peas a chance.
These small spring spheres
pack in flavour and versatility
words Magnus Newman « images Ross Wallace
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