Every freezer contains, within its cold depths, a bag of peas, lurking way up the back. Grasp about in the dark and you’ll no doubt find other long-abandoned edibles worth retrieving, or perhaps dumping, in the process. Much as I like people - really, I do - there are days when being alone, at home, is much needed. Digging around in the freezer and standing in front of the pantry sighing can yield surprising results. The sort that make stepping out into the fray irrelevant. Discovering a very icy bag of green peas, still sweet despite their lengthy hibernation, made me ridiculously happy this weekend.
Besan or gram, a buff-coloured flour made of chickpeas, may not be an ingredient native to your panty, but that may change once you’ve tried Pudla. Egg-less, dairy-less pancakes, Pudla traditionally belong to the cooking of the mango-shaped state of Gujarat in western India. Some cooks liken these to crepes, but that’s not quite right – there’s a certain magic that eggs, milk and refined white flour weave that cannot be equalled by besan alone. I don’t envision serving these sweet, though you, of course, with a little tweaking, may. The batter is best when spicy and served as a quick, simple dinner or lunch to my way of thinking. There’s much that can be made with the flour besides; a veritable wealth of gorgeous recipes await the remainder of your stash.
Serve piping hot, straight from the pan, with an array of chutneys, salsas, relishes, pickles or some thick, strained yoghurt; whatever your fridge holds. I made a winter salsa with a prized tamarillo and an avocado, but don’t go to great lengths here. That would simply defeat the purpose. You don’t want to have to go shopping.
I may never leave the house again.
Pudla (chickpea pancakes) with ginger and crushed peas - feeds 2-3
From Madhur Jaffrey. I’ve made these a lot this week. Exactly how many times, I’m not willing to share. It’s a little embarrassing. These will not turn out to be perfectly round – each will take on its own, odd shape and that, for me, is part of their charm.
1 cup of frozen, shelled green peas
2 cups of chickpea flour (besan/gram)
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
Good pinch of ground turmeric
Good pinch of chilli powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 cups of water
A large thumb of ginger
4 spring onions, finely sliced
A little olive oil, for frying
Cook the peas, in their frozen state, in boiling water according to the packet instructions and drain well. Lightly crush with either a fork or a potato masher.
Sift the chickpea flour, spices and salt into a roomy bowl. Make a well and slowly trickle the water into the centre, whisking in a little of the dry mixture from the sides as you go. There must be no lumps. Lumps are bad. Grate the ginger and squeeze the resulting juice into the mixture, whisk well and stir through the peas and spring onions. Rest, at room temperature, for 30 minutes.
Warm a frying pan over a medium-high heat and drizzle in a little oil. When hot, pour in a ladle of the mixture and cook for 2 minutes. They should be golden underneath. Drizzle the uncooked side with another dribble of oil before flipping and cooking for a further 2 minutes. Eat hot, straight from the pan.
Tamarillo and avocado salsa
My beautiful almost-mother-in-law Barbara often serves rosy-hued poached tamarillos for dessert. They are truly a sensational winter fruit. I’m indebted to Stephanie Alexander for the idea of using tamarillo in a salsa. This is rather good.
1 ripe but firm avocado
2 spring onions
Scrap of garlic, crushed
A little sugar
Sea salt and pepper
Cut a small cross in the pointed end of the tamarillo and place it in a heat-proof bowl. Cover with freshly boiled water and retrieve after 1 minute. Peel then dice the flesh – seeds and all. Peel, deseed and dice the avocado and chop the spring onions as finely as inclination permits. Gently toss with the garlic in a small bowl. Season to taste with a sprinkling of sugar, some salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and toss again.