Now that the bitter cold has set in and we face a grim lock down winter, I think about the beautiful warm summer I (very luckily) had in Greece between lock downs. The weather, the food, the beach but mostly being able to hang out, talk and eat with friends and family. At least the kitchen is still there, rooting me to 'normal' life and keeping me in the present. There are new dishes to think of and old ones for reminiscing,
This black eyed pea salad, takes me back to my husbands' family taverna in the village of Agio Theodori near Athens. He worked there when he was a kid, saving up for a BMX and annoying all the waiters by collecting the best tips. They did not let him stay past that one summer. I am told that the menu is still the same as it was at that time and that all the dishes still taste the same. Each time we go there, I order all my favourites, even though it is always too much. We always eat it all. It is the best kind of food; high quality and fresh ingredients, simply prepared, well cooked and served in a beautiful garden overlooking the sea with plenty of wine. I love their black eyed pea salad. Warm and buttery beans soaked in a fruity and flavourful olive oil dressing with finely chopped red onion and celery leaves. So simple yet delicious.
Celery leaves feature in many Greek soups and stews especially and some salads. Unfortunately, here in the UK, celery is often sold with the leaves removed. In Greece, it is more typical to see just the celery leaves without the celery! They are small and dark green resembling parsely. If you cannot find celery leaves, sub with parsley, which is still delicious rather than celery root, which is too strong.
I recommend using dried peas rather than canned for better flavour and texture. Batch cook a 1kg bag and jar them in brined water or freeze in bags for reserved portions for another day.
Serves 4 as part of a mezze or a light lunch
- 250g dried black eyed peas soaked overnight
- Small handful of parsley or celery leaves chopped.
- 1/2 red onion finely chopped
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper
- 100 ml fruity olive oil
- Juice of a lemon
- 1 tsp sugar or honey
- 1 tsp salt
- Rinse the peas very well and then boil for approximately 40 minutes until soft but not mushy. Keep an eye on them, as cooking time will depend on how fresh your peas are.
- Prep the other ingredients; chop the celery leaves or parsley and the red onion and whisk the dressing adding the lemon to the oil followed by the sugar and some salt. Whisk thoroughly until the dressing emulsifies
- Once the peas are cooked, put them in a sieve allowing all the water to drip out. Whilst they are still warm, add the onion and toss very well in the dressing.
- Leave the peas to rest and soak in all the flavours for at least 30 minutes.
- Before serving, check for salt and sprinkle on fresh black pepper and toss in the celery leaves or parsley.
Serve as part of a mezze with some cheeses, olives, crusty bread, beetroot with vinegar and garlic, lemony greens or whatever seasonal veg you have and think of where you will be this summer.