I really didn’t know much about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall until I started reading his book River Cottage Veg, Everyday! From his introduction, I gathered he was some kind of British TV foodie and something of a notorious carnivore of the hunt-shoot-and-fish-your-own variety. In recent years, he’s become evangelical on the need to eat more veggies for reasons of health and environmental sustainability. River Cottage Veg, Everyday! isn’t a preachy book though; it’s really a celebration of the joys of veggies and eating more of them, loads and loads more of them.
British cuisine has been much maligned over the years, caricatured by over-cooked veggies and stodgy puddings and, as a result, our own Anglo–Australian food traditions have been written off as being not much worth. It’s long been accepted that if weren’t for our post-war immigration, Australian cuisine would be pretty much rubbish. While there may be some truth in that, it’s a pity throw out all the good things about our British food traditions and how they’ve influenced the Australian food narrative.
River Cottage Veg, Everyday! is about simple, unadorned food with clarity of flavour that epitomises what the best of British food offers the world. It made me start to reassess how Australian food fits within this tradition. It is the pared back simplicity of the food in River Cottage Veg, Everyday! that encourages the adoption of new ingredients – Indian spices, olive oil, tamarind and Asian condiments, along with the more traditional pantry stock stables that made me feel that connection to this very British style of food, more than if I was reading a contemporary American cookbook.
I’ve never been someone who needed to be encouraged to eat my veggies – even as a kid, I loved vegetables (it was some of my mum’s dodgy weeknight meals like Irish stew and curried sausages that really irked me) I’ve also been mainly vegetarian for many years, so I found some of the recipes in River Cottage Veg, Everyday! a bit too simple. At the time, I thought ‘do we really need a recipe for roasted pumpkin or steamed vegetables dressed with garlic, butter and olive oil’. However, on further consideration, I thought perhaps we do!
In this food-obsessed world we live in, where we are always collecting recipes for this and for that, changing up what and how we eat, perhaps we do need a recipe to reconnect with joys of a plain, well-cooked plate of vegetables, seasoned with salt and pepper, a touch of garlic and a knob of butter.
I’d been pouring over my copy of River Cottage Veg, Everyday! for about a week, deciding on what I what I wanted to cook – with its pages and pages of lusciously photographed food – there were a lot of things I wanted to make but the recipe that really created a ‘cook-this-now!’ post-it note in my head was this – macaroni peas.
What’s not to like about this dish? It’s fast, easy to prepare with ingredients you probably already have on hand. And the entire concept – pasta in kind of mushy pea sauce – is very appealing to my inner-child foodie. I mean pasta, cheese, and mushy peas! What could be better than that? For those who don’t harbour a secret passion for that most British of food groups – mushy peas – you probably shouldn’t make this dish… or perhaps you should, it might make a convert of you.
As already noted, it is astoundingly quick and simple to make. From thought to action, you can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes with a salad on the side to boot and what’s not to like about that!
(from – River Cottage Veg, Everyday!, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
- 500g peas (fresh or frozen) or petits pois
- 300g small macaroni or smallish pasta or smallish pasta shapes such as orrechiette or fusilli
- 50g butter
- 1 garlic clove garlic, chopped
- 25g parmesan cheese, hard goats cheese or other well-flavoured hard cheese, coarsely grated, plus extra to serve
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Shredded basil or flat leaf parsley to serve (optional)
- Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil, so you are ready to cook the pasta as the sauce is coming together.
- Put the peas in a pan, just cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender – just a couple of minutes for frozen or very tender fresh peas, longer for older fresh peas.
- When the peas are almost cooked, add the pasta to the pan of boiling water and cook until al dente.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and add the garlic. Let it cook gently for a couple of minutes, without colouring, then remove from heat.
- Drain the peas, reserving the cooking water. Put about half of them in the blender with six tablespoons of cooking water, the butter and garlic, and the grated cheese. Blend to a smooth, loose puree, adding a little more water if needed. Combine with the whole peas and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drain the pasta as soon as it is ready and toss immediately with the hot pea sauce. Serve topped with plenty of ground black pepper and more grated cheese. Add shredded some finely shredded basil or parsley if desired.