Mushy Peas

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The first time I had mushy peas was, not surprisingly, in London when I was visiting my daughter. And, not surprisingly, I had them because they came with my fish and chips. I was a little skeptical, not being a huge pea lover, but they were good! Really good!
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The peas are often also served along the other quintessential British pub dish meat pie.
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The peas traditionally used for mushy peas are called marrowfat peas, and they’re dry peas, cooked from scratch. But I have never seen them, and decided that a bag of frozen peas will have to work.

What gives mushy peas their unique flavor is mint. It turns out it’s really a lovely combination!
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I found a recipe on the Jamie Oliver website. Mushy peas are insanely easy to make.

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Mushy Peas
Recipe by Jamie Oliver

1 knob butter
4 handfuls podded peas
1 small handful fresh mint, leaves picked and chopped
1 squeeze lemon juice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

So since I have no podded peas, here’s my version of this recipe.

1 – 1 pound bag frozen peas, thawed
1 ounce unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves
1 squirt lemon juice
Salt
Black pepper

Drain the peas in a colander to remove any excess water from the peas.
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Place the peas in a food processor and pulse. I made mine a cross between whole peas and completely mushed up peas. I noticed that in my top photo with the fish and chips, the mushy peas look like a mixture of pea purée and whole peas, and the peas with the meat pie look softer, and more mushy. So you can probably make them just about any way.

To quote Jamie Oliver: “You can either mush the peas up in a food processor, or you can mash them by hand until they are stodgy, thick and perfect for dipping your fish into.”

I think mine might not be stodgy enough, but then, I’m not sure what stodgy means.

Place the butter in a medium-sized pot that has a lid, and add the stodgy peas.
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Add the mint leaves, cover the pot, and simmer the peas on low for about 10 minutes.

Give the peas a good stir, then add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.


And that’s it!
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Unfortunately, I didn’t have fish and chips, but I did pan-fry a Swai filet and the combination was fabulous!
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I’m wondering if children who hate peas might actually enjoy mushy peas!

Pasta and Zucchini

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A few years ago, I visited my London-living daughter in May. Because my birthday had just occurred, and of course she couldn’t just fly home to help me celebrate, she surprised me with two gifts.

One was a cookbook, and the second was a dinner at a restaurant. The cookbook was The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook, and the restaurant she took me to was The River Cafe in London.

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The restaurant itself is in a lovely location right on the north bank of the River Thames. The inside of the restaurant is surprisingly modern. It’s a very open space, and the chefs can be observed in action, which is always fun.

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If I’d known I’d have a blog one day I would have tried to get a better photo, but you get the idea. It’s got a lot of chrome and aqua glass, which is very striking, although I personally wouldn’t have designed a traditional Italian restaurant in the same matter. But maybe that’s the point. Notice the pizza oven in the middle of the spacious dining room. There’s a bar and more space for dining room looking the other way, and the river side of the restaurant is solid windows, so the view is beautiful. There’s outside seating as well.

I remember my daughter and I had a lovely wine and wonderful antipasti. I had squid and my daughter, grilled asparagus with fonduta. So far so good. Then we both ordered a main course. Because of the restaurant’s reputation, we had grand expectations.

The River cafe opened in 1987 Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. Neither were chefs; they were simply two women who had deep passions for all things culinarily Italian. They eventually earned a Michelin star ten years later. This restaurant was also the training ground for future famous chefs Jamie Oliver, Sam and Sam Clark, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
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For the sake of this post, I just looked up The River Cafe on Zagat, and the food was rated 27, which is extremely good. On vacations, I take these ratings very seriously. 27, out of 30, is high, and although service is also important to me, the food rating is certainly more important to me, than say, decor. Think Indian restaurants, for example.

My daughter ordered some kind of fish, and I ordered a lamb chop. I try to get my lamb fix when I’m not at home, since my husband won’t eat it.

Unexpectedly, both of our proteins were overcooked. It was nothing we needed to complain about, as everything else was cooked to perfection, but it was indeed a little disappointing. Perhaps we had the understudy chef that night. But overall it was a lovely experience, made even more special by my daughter.

The two ladies of The River Cafe, Ruth Rogers on the left above, Rose Gray on the right, now deceased, wrote 6 cookbooks together. I’m very happy with the cookbook that was gifted to me, published in 2009. This pasta recipe is from my cookbook. It shows how simple cooking can be, especially Italian cooking, with delicious results.

In the amount of time it took to cook the pappardelle, this pasta dish was complete. Following is my take on their recipe, although I didn’t alter the ingredients at all. See below for the changes I made.

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Pasta with Zucchini

8.8 package of your choice of pasta
2 large zucchini, or 4 small zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, slivered
Butter, softened, about 3 ounces
Grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, slice the zucchini into equal thicknesses. The recipe called for 1 cm thickness, but I’m sure that’s a misprint. Mine were more like 3 mm. No cooking time for the zucchini is mentioned, so perhaps they did really recommend thick slices, but they took much longer to cook. I used a mandoline, with my heavy duty glove, to get the uniform slices.

Add oil to a large skillet; I used my wok. Heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the garlic, give it a stir, and then immediately add the zucchini slices. The recipe says to only have the slices in one layer, but that would have to be done in many multiple batches. I opted to add all of the zucchini.


Gently toss the zucchini and garlic in the wok, without using a spoon. It will gradually brown.

At this point, add the softened butter and lower the heat. Continue cooking, and gently tossing, until the zucchini has all softened.

Then add the pasta to the zucchini and gently mix together.


To serve, add some grated Parmesan. I also added coarsely ground pepper, which is the only ingredient not in the original recipe. Crushed red pepper would also be good.

I ate this pasta as my dinner, but I served it to my husband alongside a pork chop, as a side dish.

It could certainly be meatified with the addition of Italian sausage, grilled chicken, or flaked salmon. But on its own, it a lovely, subtle-flavored pasta dish.

note: If you want to make the original recipe, here is the ratio of zucchini, butter, and pasta:
8 ounces zucchini (I used twice that amount)
5.2 ounces butter (I used 3 ounces)
11 ounces pasta (I used 8.8 ounces)
I love butter and I’m certainly not afraid of using it, but over 5 ounces seemed like way too much, although granted I used a slightly less amount of pasta. The butter browns as you’re browning the zucchini, and it’s all utterly fabulous in flavors at the end.

L’Escargot

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There is a restaurant in the Soho district of London called L’Escargot that is owned by the famous/infamous Marco Pierre White. My daughters and I have dined there three times, and each time has been a perfect experience.

The food is exceptional, and not too over-the-top. The service is perfect. The ambiance is lovely. And we’ve always relied on the in-house sommelier, who has always been successful with wine choices, as well.

The reason I wanted to write a post on the restaurant has a lot to do with Marco Pierre White. He’s a hulking monster of a man, with a kind of bad-boy sexiness that really intrigues me. It’s also what’s gotten him into trouble on many occasions, according to his autobiography*.

In one post earlier this year, I wrote about my food experiences in the U.K., and how things have obviously changed from the days when the U.K. culinary world had a terrible reputation primarily based on its bland food. I’ve been lucky enough to spend weeks in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, as well as in England, and have been thrilled with the obvious “improvements.”

In this post I wrote that Marco Pierre White played an integral role in changing the course of all things culinary. I’ve read his book, but many others as well that focus on that period of time in culinary history, and it’s pretty obvious that he was one of the first of few to shake things up in restaurant kitchens.

Recently I was watching Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations, and on this show he actually met up with Marco Pierre White. They went hunting together and it was a very interesting show. They make quite a bad-boy pair, although ever since Mr. Bourdain had a baby he’s mellowed. He even quit smoking. Mr. White still smokes.

But in the show’s introduction, Anthony Bourdain said that Marco Pierre White had single handedly changed the course of England’s culinary journey. Single handedly!!! I had only said that he played an integral role! So take that Mr. Obnoxious male commenters!!!

Another really interesting tidbit, for those of you who don’t know, when Mr. White retired some years ago, he withdrew all of his Michelin stars. He felt he didn’t deserve them when he wouldn’t actually be at his restaurants. I feel that is very humble and noble.

He still owns quite a few restaurant other than L’Escargot, but I wanted to mention my experiences there because of the perfection involved. Here is my daughter’s starter of sardines one night.
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If you have ever watched the show “Hell’s Kitchen,” then you’re aware that Gordon Ramsay is a stickler for the highest level of quality. The competing chefs are supposed to have perfection as their goal. Risotto must be cooked properly. Fish must be cooked properly. No piece of rotten lettuce on the plate. Medium rare is medium rare – nothing other.

And having unfortunately dined in establishments over many years where perfection is never aspired to, I take having a great meal in a great restaurant very seriously. That means you’re never bothered by the staff. Every one is polite. You can ask questions and you get answers. And the food is perfect. And this is why we continue to return to L’Escargot.

I can’t remember for the life of me what this is, but I know it was good!!

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Here is a photo when I went with my younger daughter on our apartment-finding trip to London in 2010.
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Here I am with my two daughters a few years ago when we went in December. I didn’t have bangs yet, but that’s me.

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I absolutely adore going to a perfect restaurant. It’s what they all should be. Thank you.

* Marco Pierre White’s autobiography, The Devil in the Kitchen is a fabulous read. It’s on my kindle, but here’s the photo of the actual book.

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update: The restaurant, L’Escargot, is now no longer owned by Marco Pierro White.