Inspiration: Peas and Ham

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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.

Summer Small Plates

It's no secret that I could easily live on small bites. It's definitely my preferred style of eating. Casual, relaxed and the the opportunity to try just a little bit of everything. Why would I eat any other way? Here in Vancouver we are having some very warm days, particularly this last week. So no way do I want to put on the oven. We're still waiting for our own tomatoes. They continue to show promise and we've harvested them in twos and threes but we are still not quite at salad production levels yet. So I thought we'd practice with some nice store bought, local,  mini San Marzanos and make a nice Caprese. The basil was freshly harvested from our own garden.

Caprese Salad. Photography © 2012 Helena McMurdo

We picked up some Bocconcini at Zara's in the Granville Island Public Market and while we where there took the opportunity to purchase some of their delicious pasta. Ravioli stuffed with Butternut Squash seemed to be all the rage in the last few years and even though we seem to see it everywhere I can't get tired of this combination.

Caprese Salad3_© 2012 Helena McMurdo

I simply cooked the pasta in water in a shallow pan for about 3 minutes and then drained the water and removed the pasta. In the same pan I melted some butter and threw in some sage leaves and then added the pasta back to the pan and tossed for 2 minutes or so. Luxurious and delicious.

Caprese Salad2_© 2012 Helena McMurdo

No stop to Granville Island would be complete without a visit to Oyama Sausage Company.  The thing I like most about this place is when standing in line you can meet someone from every country that ever made a sausage. Some Spanish Serrano and one of my all-time favourite charcuterie items Rosette de Lyon made this meal complete.

What are your favourite summer dishes?