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One French word: petit pois, a French recipe: cake à la feta et aux petits pois


The French language bit:

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.

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 aren’t too crumbly. 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.

Main ingredients

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

Preparation:

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Grease a loaf tin.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the flour and the baking powder and beat thoroughly so that there are no remaining lumps.
  5. Bring a very small amount of water to the boil (do not salt it) and put the peas to boil for 3 minutes.
  6. Cut the feta into small squares.
  7. Chop the mint.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Bake for 40 minutes – it may need 50 but watch it after 40.
  11. 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.

Bon appétit!

About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

7 responses »

  1. Oh, my goodness, another delectable dish!! I love feta, and I just planted mint in my yard.

    Reply
  2. Thank you! I have mint all over my garden, different types, Maroccan mint for tea, chocolate mint for desserts, mint for making mint sauce to go with lamb, lemon mint, spearmint… what a wonderful plant.

    Reply
  3. This sounds scrumptious. People around here do a similar recipe, ‘cake aux olives’, which is the same principle but with different ingredients. Feta cheese has a great affinity with mint and legumes such as peas or broad beans. When broad beans are in season I can’t get enough of them and we often make a nice starter with them plus feta and mint and a few salad leaves with a balsamic dressing (actually an Italian recipe thanks to the River Café).

    Reply
    • I do “cakes” with all sorts of different ingredients, whatever I have in the fridge in fact, all sorts of different cheeses, bacon, lardons, chorizo, courgettes, beans. I love broad beans, had loads in my garden last year, seem to have forgotten to plant them this year…

      Reply
  4. This recipe sounds divine, peas one of my all time favourites. I will be home in my own kitchen tomorrow after having spent a few days with my parents in the country, so will try it then. The Broad bean variation from nessafrance sounds good too! My ability to learn French through your blog is not enhanced much because of my fading memory, but the fun we have trying, surrounded by your food is wonderful. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment, Kate, it means a lot to me. Keep learning French for when you come and visit me in the Finistere!

      Reply
      • hahaha, me learning French! I do try to remember and your wonderful recipes and blog give me inspiration, but the reality is rather different. By the time I left France a couple of years ago, I had just mastered saying hello and goodbye, and then went to Italy, and for the first week, kept getting confused and responded in French instead of Italian. It certainly kept my husband laughing!!

        Reply

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