Monday, May 21, 2012

RECIPE - Mushy Peas (Purê de ervilhas)

At times it's easy to forget that not everything about Brazilian cuisine is strange or exotic from the European or North American point of view. Granted, a blog like Flavors of Brazil that deals with traditional regional and contemporary Brazilian gastronomy will have to talk about fruits that can only be found in the tropics, species of fish and shellfish that might seem unusual and bizarre in the cold-water world of the northern-hemisphere seas, or cooking techniques inherited from pre-literate Amerindian tribes or from African slaves. However, much of Brazilian cooking is very similar to cooking from the northern half of the world.

This is particularly true of regional recipes from the south of Brazil, where immigration patterns have resulted in large numbers of Brazilians who can claim ancestry from Europe. In Brazil's southern states, you can find Italian dishes, German ones, even recipes that hark back to Eastern Europe.

We were reminded of this recently when we were perusing one of the volumes in Abril Editora's 20-volume series Cozinha Regional Brazileira (Regional Brazilian Cuisine), now unfortunately out of print. The book in question concerned the gastronomy of the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, where there are large communities who can trace their family trees back to Italy or Germany. So seeing recipes for gnocchi (almost unrecognizable in its Portuguese spelling - nhoque) and sauerkraut in the cookbook was no surprise. But when we turned over page 110, there was one of our favorite "awful" dishes from the British Isles - mushy peas (called purê de ervilhas in its Portuguese translation). How this dish which is so widely execrated, but for which many people secretly carry a nostalgic torch, made its way from Oliver Twist-style English orphanages and boarding schools to southern Brazil is something we'll never know, as there has never been large-scale immigration from England to Brazil. But there it was large as life, and reading the recipe brought a nostalgic rush.

For those readers who might not be familiar with mushy peas or who just want to remember eating them as a child, here is the recipe from the Santa Catarina cookbook. Try it - it may turn out that for you mushy peas are one of those things, like creamed corn or rice pudding, that you'll love to eat alone and secretly. It's just too embarrassing to admit you really like the dish!
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RECIPE - Mushy Peas (Purê de ervilhas)
Serves 8

2 lbs (1 kg) dried green split peas
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup crispy-fried bacon cubes (optional) for garnish.
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Place the peas in a large heavy pan. Add enough water to bring the water level to two-fingers height above the level of the peas. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to a slow boil and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the peas are very tender and beginning to fall apart. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peas to a blender. Add enough water from the pan to allow blender to liquidize the peas, but not so much as to make a soup. It's best to start with a small amount of water, adding more as needed until the peas reach the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Return the peas to a pan, season to taste with salt, and heat thoroughly. Serve immediately as a side dish, topped with bacon cubes if desired.

3 comments:

  1. Very very interesting recipe. I have to try it. Its such a healthy vegetable.bellini cocktail

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