Inspiration: Peas and Ham



So all this revisiting of my recent trip has given me a craving for some simple Spanish cooking here at home in Vancouver. I was at Granville Island yesterday and spotted some lovely English Peas and thought - peas and ham. And by ham, I mean Serrano. Claro. I can always count on Oyama Sausage Company for some of the good stuff.

There is something so simple and  satisfying about this dish. Fresh peas are boiled and then tossed with bits of ham in a sauce of nothing more than olive oil, pimentón and garlic. A bit of bread to mop of the smoky, scented oil and a glass of wine and you've got something truly delicious.

You will need:

About 3 Cups fresh, shelled English peas

100 grams Jamón Serrano cut into little bits (like lardons) (I bought these pre-cut from Oyama Sausage Company which saved me lots of time).

3-4 TBSP Olive Oil or more

2 Garlic Cloves, flattened and blistered with the back of a knife

Approx 1 TBSP Hot Smoked Paprika (Pimentón Picante)

Ok. So now we have to talk about Pimentón. You may or may not know that there are three types of Smoked Paprika from Spain: Dulce (Sweet), Agridulce (Bittersweet) and Picante (Hot). Where I live in Vancouver, I find it is more often the Dulce or Agridulce varieties that are on shelves. Picante can be hard to find but it is my preference in this recipe. In our family, this item is something that tucked into a Christmas stocking, can make someone very happy. So grab it when you see it.

The method is simple.

Boil the shelled peas until they are tender. How long? I have no idea. Keep tasting them until they taste good to you.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil and fry the garlic and ham very gently, just browning the ham. When the ham is done, remove it and let it drain on some paper towel (or not). Keep frying the garlic, pressing on it with a back of a spoon to mush it up. The purpose here is simply to flavour the oil. You will actually remove the garlic when serving. I know it can seem like a lot of oil. It is. But most of it is going to settle to the bottom of the dish and you are going to mop it up with your bread. You'd eat as much when you dip your bread in oil at an Italian restaurant and you wouldn't even think about it.

Just before the peas are about to be ready, remove the pan with the oil from the heat, remove the garlic and add the pimentón. The pimentón will fry very vast in the hot oil so keep stirring constantly. Quite quickly the oil will cool. At this point, you can set the pan aside. Now the peas will be done. Drain them and combine with the pimentón oil mixture. Easy peasy. Did I just say that? Oh boy.

PeasandHam2 ©2013 Helena McMurdo

So there you have it. I hope you will try this with some fresh local peas. Let me know how it goes. I would love to know.

Sunday Mission

For our last day on our recent trip to  San Francisco, we headed back to the Mission District where we'd already spent a bit of time...but not enough. Mission Dolores

The Mission District gets its name from the Mission Dolores, one of the original California Mission Churches.  The Old Mission or Misión San Francisco de Asís was founded in 1776 and was also known as Mission Dolores due to the presence of a nearby creek called Arroyo de los Dolores.


Holy Bread of a Different Kind

Having heard about Tartine which reportedly makes best loaf of bread in the world we thought we'd try our luck at coffee and a pastry for breakfast.  Given the line up which extended a block from the entrance they must be doing something right. Patience not being my biggest virtue we decided to move on and try it later.  We did manage a lovely biscuit later in the afternoon. Not bad. I can't speak for the bread but by all reports it's amazing and sells out within 45 minutes of 5pm when it hits the shelves each day.

We did a bit of a drive-by on Delfina which seemed to be the talk of the town. All weekend, anyone we asked recommended it as a great place to eat. There is a main restaurant as well a more casual pizzeria. Again - big line up waiting for the Pizzeria to open for lunch. It looked great but we were too hungry to wait.

Down the street is Farina, an Italian bistro, specializing in pizza and pasta. We were there for breakfast so didn’t get to taste the latter but really enjoyed the floor show in the open kitchen where pizza dough was tossed and rolled before being slipped into a forno style oven.  Another chef hand rolled pasta and made what appeared to be squash tortellini.


Later we walked  around the Mission to take in the atmosphere and check out the murals which are very prevalent in this area. Some of the more elaborate ones, like the Maestrapeace Mural which covers the Women's Building, feature incredible detail.


We would have been very happy to spend the entire weekend here. Such a lively neighbourhood with plenty of options for food and a great atmosphere. Definitely one of the highlights of our trip to  San Francisco.


Delfina, 3621 18th Street

Farina, 3560 18th Street

Mission Dolores, 3321 16th Street

Tartine Bakery, 600 Guerrero Street (at 18th)