Boxes were packed, lugged then unpacked into familiar pieces of furniture. The light is gorgeous. Perfection, I hope, and much to learn. There is a lemon tree, recently trimmed but ripe with fruit, a vast expanse of grass which the dog adores and what may, if we are lucky, turn out to be a large plum. I suspect one of the blossoming trees to be a healthy pear and there are two – that’s right, two – crabapples. It is quiet; it is calm. But it’s not quite home. Yet.
A propensity toward unsentimentality served me well. There was a lot of culling this move – seven boxes of cookbooks alone. However did I end up with so many? Greed, obviously. Honing the collection none too carefully has been hugely, wildly, enjoyable. Only the useful, the unusual and the well-loved remain. Tamasin Day-Lewis’ enthusiasm for roasting road-kill is, largely, what saved her. Her badger-feast in Where Shall We Go for Dinner? is, like watching a train crash, awful but impossible to tear yourself from. Nigella’s first two stayed, every Deborah Madison and all of Nigel Slater’s, the eccentric Thirst being rescued from a reject pile at the eleventh hour only because of Angela Moore’s stunning photographic approach. A lucky reprieve.
Then there is Colin Spencer. He who can make you brush your ratty hair into a neat, high pony-tail and head off to the market whistling, list in hand, where you know the first peas by early October must have arrived. Despite the kilo I brought home setting me back close to twenty bucks, theirs is a short, sweet season. Money well-spent, I'd say.
‘Podding is a fulfilling task’, claims Spencer, ‘which most people enjoy’. If buying organic, do factor in a loss of roughly 10 percent which will, undoubtedly, house little green caterpillars. Such is the nature of the organic beast, I’m afraid. You will probably not know from pod to pod, that is until you sink a thumbnail in and rudely awaken a wriggler from his cocooned slumber. Vegetarians beware – even cautious, watchful podding can be insecticide. It takes twenty minutes or so for one person to pod half a kilo, so treat the task as a meditation of sorts. In a delicious shaft of sunlight if possible. Therapy for a weary person, who hopes not to see another box for at least twelve months.
Pois St Germain – feeds 2
This simple dish of vegetables is a divine way to enjoy fresh spring peas. Frozen, for once, simply will not do. Adapted from The Vegetable Book.
500g (1 lb) of fresh peas
1 cos lettuce (romaine)
1 small onion
3 spring onions
3 baby carrots
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
Big pinch of brown sugar
1 large glass of dry white wine
1 tablespoon of butter or extra virgin olive oil
Parsley, chopped, to garnish
Crusty bread, to serve
Pod the peas. Separate the lettuce leaves, wash well, shake dry and chop them very roughly. Peel and slice the onion; trim and slice the spring onions and carrots. Take out a large saucepan and cover its base completely with the lettuce leaves. Top with the onions, the carrots, then sprinkle with the salt and sugar. Pour in the wine, add the podded peas and, lastly, the butter. Place the lid on tightly and cook, undisturbed, over a low heat for 25-30 minutes by which time all should be tender and juicy.
Eat from soup plates, preferably outside, garnished with parsley, mopping up the delicious winey juices with crusty, buttered bread.