Petit pois (un petit pois, des petits pois) = garden pea (pronounced peuh-tee pwah).
We’ve had pois cassés = split peas, but these are the nice tender variety that we shall have on our plates in a month or so (I used frozen I have to admit).
Just as a noix (= walnut) is used to indicate a tablespoon sized portion, often of butter, so petit pois denotes a pea-sized portion, of a cream from a tube for instance.
Petits pois à la française are peas cooked with silverskin onions, a little fried bacon (lardons) and the braised heart of a lettuce. It always seems strange to me, but then I was at one time anglo-saxon, that the French really prefer their peas from tins (cans) and not fresh or frozen. We like them bright green, they prefer khaki. Same with “French” beans (haricots verts). One gets used to them, but I could never prefer them.
When you see on a menu “à la Clamart“, it means the meat is served with peas.
Avoir un petit pois dans la tête (= literally to have a pea in your head) means to be stupid, to have a pea-sized brain.
My recipe is for a cake à la feta et aux petits pois = a loaf-shaped cake with feta cheese and peas. This is really useful as an apéritif nibble recipe, you can put it in mini molds to make bite-sized portions (but do reduce the cooking time accordingly). It is also good for picnics or taking to the office. It makes neat slices that don’t make too many crumbs. It contains protein and vitamins. It is good cold, with mayonnaise, or hot with a homemade tomato sauce. Very versatile, and ridiculously easy to do.
For four people you will need:
- 150gr flour
- a heaped tsp baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 10cl vegetable oil
- 10cl milk
- 130gr frozen peas
- 130gr feta
- 1/2 tsp salt, 4 grinds of the pepper mill
- a handful of chopped fresh mint
- a handful of grated cheese
- Heat the oven to 180°C.
- Grease a loaf tin.
- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, the salt (but taste your feta first to make sure it is not too salty, in which case reduce the amount), the oil and the milk. I used virgin organic rapeseed oil, which is bright yellow and has a delicate flavour. You can use olive oil just as well.
- Add the flour and the baking powder and beat thoroughly so that there are no remaining lumps.
- Bring a very small amount of water to the boil (do not salt it) and put the peas to boil for 3 minutes.
- Cut the feta into small squares.
- Chop the mint.
- Add the drained peas, the feta and the mint to the egg and flour mixture and pour into the mold. Make sure you are using real Greek feta and not some imitation. Not at all the same thing.
- Put a handful of grated cheese (pale yellow cheese NOT orange cheese, this will spoil the aesthetics of the dish) in a stripe down the centre of the cake.
- Bake for 40 minutes – it may need 50 but watch it after 40.
- Unmold and allow to cool slightly if you are serving it hot, cut into slices (slicing is a little tricky when hot as the feta is far from firm). Allow to cool completely if you are serving cold and chill in the fridge.
Any left over cake should be wrapped in tin foil or cling wrap and kept in the fridge. Try not to slice more than you are going to use, it keeps better in one piece.
The colours of this cake are delicate and springlike (printanier, we just had that word). Very appetizing.