I don’t often think about peas as being the hero of any dish. To me, they are a little like curly-leafed parsley: they operate as more of a necessary garnish of green than an actual flavour.
But as I compiled my menu for DIY Dad’s retirement party (more about that in later posts), I discovered a recipe that served peas with pancetta on croustades (croustades are basically a little cup made out of crispy filo pastry). I made it for the retirement shindig and came away with two learnings:
- Filo pastry is too fiddly, fragile and too prone to going limp even after you’ve crisped it, and
- I needed to rethink my attitude about peas
Peas definitely need strong, and salty, flavours. On their own they are quite rich and creamy, so things like feta and pancetta cut through the richness and add balance.
What I came up with was to serve the peas garnished with crispy pancetta, feta and mint on top of crispy italian bread rubbed with garlic; so basically pea, feta, mint and pancetta bruschetta. Minus the pancetta and the dish is vegetarian, so it can easily be adapted.
- 300gm frozen peas (don’t.use.minted.peas)
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- Italian bread (4 slices)
- 1 large clove garlic
- Olive Oil spray
- 4 thin slices pancetta (or proscuitto) (optional)
- 50gm feta, cubed
- handful of mint leaves, stems removed
- Salt, pepper and olive oil for serving
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Boil water in a saucepan, add the peas and cook until just ready (5 minutes): the peas should still be richly green, so no over-cooking. Drain the peas and add to a food processor along with the 4 tbsp of olive oil, then process. I have a tiny food processor attachment to my stick mixer, the perfect size for this.
Pop the slices of pancetta (or proscuitto) onto a sheet of baking paper and then straight onto a rack in the oven, they will take about 5-10 minutes to crisp dependent on how hot your oven is. When you remove them, they might still be a little pliable but as they cool they will become crispier. When cooled, break up each piece into little shards.
Mix the feta and mint leaves together and leave until needed.
Each slice of bread should be no bigger than a bread plate, the bread I choose was too big so I cut each slice in half. Spray with olive olive then pop on a tray in the oven. Toast until golden, turn over and do the same. When golden on both sides, take the bread out of the oven and rub each side with the clove of garlic. Pop each slice on a bread plate.
Portion out the peas onto each piece of bread (this makes enough for 4-5 slices of bruschetta). Mound the peas, don’t spread (this isn’t a play lunch).
Add the pancentta/proscuitto to the feta and mint (do this at the last minute otherwise the crisoy pancetta/proscuitto shards will go soggy), then sprinkle on top of the mound of peas.
Garnish with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.