Nigel Slater’s pea recipes (2024)

I suspect I grew peas – four long rows supported with canes and string – to eat raw rather than cooked. I grew them for their white flowers, their shoots and curling tendrils for salad, the fun of popping their pods and tipping the tiny green peas into my mouth. There was the remotest intent of self-sufficiency. Mr Bird’s Eye need not have worried.

But grow peas I did, and would do so now if I could spare the room. They can be hit and miss from the market or the greengrocers, even if you sort through them for the smallest, unbruised pods, squeaking with freshness. But nothing will stop me buying them.

I guess there will always be those with a bountiful allotment harvest. Who would not want them fresh? But most of us just make do with what we can get. For those who tire of wolfing them straight from the pod, I offer two suggestions: one using peas with young leeks, lending sweetness and a delightful contrast of texture; and the second where they are the true stars, sharing a plate with pink prawns and toast-brown butter.

Pea, herb and mozzarella pie

A sheet of greaseproof paper or baking parchment placed over the surface of the leeks as they cook will help them soften in their own steam rather than frying. Don’t skip the salting of the courgettes as this will leave you with a wet filling.

Serves 6
For the pastry:
plain flour 350g
butter 125g
parmesan 60g, finely grated
lemon thyme leaves 2 tbsp
parsley chopped, 2 tbsp
egg yolks 2
water 50-75ml

For the filling:
courgettes 250g
leeks 2, large
butter 25g
water 2 tbsp
peas 200g (weight after podding)
chives 8
mint 10g
thyme leaves 1 tbsp
lemon the zest of 1
mozzarella 2 balls
egg a little beaten to finish

Make the pastry: put the flour in a large, wide bowl then add the butter, cut into small cubes. Rub the butter and flour together between your thumbs and fingertips until you have a breadcrumb-like texture. Alternatively, pulse for a few seconds in a food processor. Quicker, but somehow less pleasing.

Add the parmesan, thyme and parsley then the egg yolks to the flour and butter. Combine, preferably with cool hands, adding enough water to produce a rollable dough. A minute of gentle kneading on a floured work surface will help. Wrap in kitchen film or greaseproof paper and chill for 20-30 minutes.

Make the filling: wipe and coarsely grate the courgettes, then transfer to a colander. Sprinkle them generously with salt then place the colander over a bowl and leave for 30 minutes.

Trim the leeks and discard tough leaves. Cut them in half lengthways then slice into pieces the thickness of a pencil. Transfer to a colander and rinse under cold running water, then shake to remove any excess water.

Melt the butter in a large, wide pan over a low heat. Tip in the leeks, pour in the water then cover with greaseproof paper or baking parchment and a lid. Cook for 10-12 minutes, with the occasional stir. The leeks should be soft, but without browning. Stir in the peas. Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6.

Finely chop the chives and mint and add them, with the thyme, to the leeks. Stir in the lemon zest. Squeeze the courgettes firmly in your hands to remove as much water as you can, then stir into the leeks with a grinding of pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes. Break the mozzarella into large pieces, add to the filling and set aside.

Roll the pastry on a lightly floured board into a 40 x 35cm rectangle then transfer to a parchment covered baking sheet. Using a draining spoon, pile the filling into the centre of the pastry, leaving a 6cm rim of bare pastry around the edge and pressing the filling against the side of the pan to remove any liquid as you go. Bring the rim up and loosely fold over the filling, leaving an open area in the middle.

Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and the exposed vegetables with olive oil and bake for 35 minutes until the pastry is golden. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Peas and prawns

Nigel Slater’s pea recipes (1)

Timing is critical here. You want to catch the butter on its way from golden to pale nut brown. The moment when it has just taken on a delicious nuttiness, but well before it starts to burn.

Serves 2
peas 600g (weight in pod)
prawns 12, raw and in their shells
butter 75g
radishes 10
orange 1, juice and grated zest

Put a deep pan of water on to boil. Pod the peas – you should have about 200g. Peel the prawns. When the water is boiling, add the peas and let them cook, at a rolling boil, for 3-4 minutes until brilliant green, then drain. Plunge the peas into a bowl of ice-cold water and set aside.

Melt the butter in a shallow pan over a medium heat. Place the prawns in the hot butter and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until they have turned bright pink. Trim the radishes and slice in half lengthways.

As soon as the butter turns a pale nutty brown add the orange juice and zest, then immediately add the peas and radishes. Cook for a minute or two, no longer, until the radishes are warm, then serve.

Email Nigel at or follow him on Twitter @NigelSlater

Nigel Slater’s pea recipes (2024)
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