We came back from the hills on the train with a Ziploc bag of fresh peas, and fistfuls of sorrel in wet newspaper, and a posy of my roses and catmint and rosemary, and a sinking realisation that our train got in at seven, and we had people for dinner at eight. All the way home I thought about food- I often do- and then I bought some creme fraîche, and made this, before we’d unpacked, or washed, or anything. This might be the most practical thing I’ve ever made. You wouldn’t think pasta could be so summery. Summery, speedy, delicious and broadly speaking vegetarian.
(We had some chorizo with it, because we had some, but it really is not necessary: this is a very vegetable-y meal. The point of it is peas, and sorrel, and everything else is supporting characters.)
Speed Is Of The Essence Sorrel Pesto
Makes a goodish tub- and keeps reasonably well
Vegetarian; takes about ten minutes.
Large bowl of sorrel leaves- about three good handfuls.
Fistful of basil, if you can get it without faff.
Approximately 75g Parmesan
An eggcupful of good olive oil
Two garlic cloves
125g sunflower seeds, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds
Scissors; blender; frying pan.
Pasta With Peas
Serves four, more or less. Ten minutes.
Two big tablespoons of Speed Is Of The Essence Sorrel Pesto
One big tablespoon of crème fraîche
Half a lemon
Two teaspoons of honey
1/4 glass of white wine- whatever you’re drinking is fine. Honestly.
200 ml peas- the fresher the better.
100g sunflower seeds, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds
Meat-eaters! Subbing in 150g chorizo for the nuts and seeds works beautifully. It is totally unnecessary, but good for Men. Men like Meat.
Appropriate pasta for four. I used some pretty semolina pasta, and it was beautiful.
First things: bags in the bedroom, sorrel unwrapped, guest (the always lovely Harry Harris) inveigled onto the sofa to shell peas. Chop two cloves of garlic, and put them, with all the nuts and seeds and things, into a hottish frying pan on a medium heat. You don’t want any of it to burn, but only to brown politely.
Sorrel does not keep very long- so pick it as soon as you can before you want to eat it. I have never seen it in a shop, possibly because of this: if you do, do tell me. It is hard to grow sorrel in a Tiny Flat.
All this is the long way round to saying: wash your sorrel, it will be grubby. Wash the sorrel; throw into a bowl, with some basil, if you have it; chop with kitchen scissors. Grate a good end of the Parmesan- I think it’s about 75g, but you can also judge it by the cheese parallelogram left after you’ve finished grating. The sorrel, the basil, the Parmesan, and 2/3 of the nuts, seeds and garlic go into the blender with some olive oil. Zhizz. Keep zhizzing. Add a bit more olive oil, if it needs it. It might. Bit of sea-salt. Done. (Any you don’t use, spoon into a little ramekin-thing and cover with oil. Sorrel doesn’t keep, but pesto does.)
Bring a pan of water to the boil; salt; cook your pasta. Add your peas straight into the pasta water a tiny moment before the pasta is done. The fresher they are, the less cooking they need. Really I want to eat them raw, and I do,all greeny-new and tasting like earth, but they ought to be a little bit warm.
(This is the time you can cook your chorizo, if that’s your thing. Let it get a bit burnt.)
Drain your pasta and peas; return to the pan. Two ordinary tablespoons of the sorrel pesto; one greedy tablespoon of creme fraîche. Stir, stir, stir. Teaspoon of runny honey. Sea-salt to taste. Grind some white pepper- black pepper would do, too, but the Tall Man is a Pepper Person. (I am not.) White wine. Squeeze of lemon. Stir, stir, stir. Taste. A little bit more honey, maybe. Stir, stir.
Four bowls. Scatter over the nuts and seeds, or chorizo. Maybe an extra pea or two. Eat. Welcome home.