I remember well my first Sunday roast. It was just over three years ago, in a pub (my favourite!) in Leeds. I think I had beef. The plate arrived, a glorious amount of food leaving hardly any space left in the plate. There were slices of meat, with carrots and roast potatoes on the side. Gravy covered the bottom of the plate, a giant Yorkshire pudding getting its bottom soaked in it. A tiny ramekin containing a thick, white-ish sauce was precariously wedged between the food and the edge of the plate. There might have been some parsnip, too (another first for me). And then, scattered among all of this, some innocent-looking peas. Probably like the majority of you, I’ve eaten peas all my life. Fresh, frozen or dried, they have gone into pasta sauces, risotti, soups and side dishes. But in all my life pre-2009, I don’t think I ever had just boiled peas on their own. And by that I mean that they were always mixed with something else, cooked with something else or stirred in some condiment or the other.
And there they were. Just when I was starting to think I had seen the worst of British cookery (yes, gravy granules, I’m looking at you, again), I was left to chew on these squeaky green globules, trying to catch them before they bounced once again on the plate and ponder. Why, why would a cuisine that’s so scared of vaguely dry food and obsessively pairs everything with a specific sauce or condiment, leave boiled peas to their unbound and bland destiny? If you could have something nicely cooked, why have it tasteless? I have voiced my contempt for “just boiled peas” (as I like to call them, stress on the just) many times, even though I’ve never refused to eat them. After all, they’re just peas, a quick and easy accompaniment to something else. All the same, my mum’s (and before her, my grandma’s) way of cooking peas kept popping up in my head whenever I was presented with boiled peas. So, here it is. It’s only a matter of time before you, too, will start glancing disdainfully at the peas in your Sunday roast.
Melt the butter in a pan. Make sure you have a lid fitting the pan you choose. When the butter is melted, add the onion and on a low heat and sautée for about 10 minutes. Don’t let it brown too much. Add the ham strips and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the peas, stir and cover with a lid. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every now and then. Turn the heat off and stir in the parsley and black pepper. Serve as a side dish or on a slice of toast for a quick lunch.