'Is That A Pea Cake?'



With that urge for spring still coursing through my veins, I remembered a recipe for something intensely green in my River Cafe Green cookbook, a pea torte. At supper, I got out the book and showed Nick the picture as an appetiser.

'You made that for our wedding, remember?' - Did I? I couldn't remember. We had a picnic in Brockwell Park after the ceremony. We tumbled, blinking, from the dark 1970's mahogany interior of the registry office, where the matronly registrar mispronounced my name, causing a nervous Nick to do the same; into the white July sun, spreading a blanket in that small green oasis, to begin our married life.

As Nick talked, memories came drifting back like snatches of song on the wind. A friend of ours who lives on the Norfolk Fens once told us that he heard a voice and looked up thinking it was his wife, yet his wife was nowhere around. After scratching his head a bit, it occurred to him the voice must be a neighbour’s radio, only his nearest neighbour was a couple of miles away across the flat Fenland and that sound must have drifted unchallenged, all the way to his ears.

It came back in brief fragments, as memories do. I searched for the pea torte in my recollection of the day. Tiny Finley sitting on my sister's knee as she signed the register, the flowers on her boyfriend's shirt, the way the cream tasted in the shade of a tree, ah yes, the pea torte, creamy and herb scented with a salty Parmesan crisp to the crust! Images continued to surface; having just said yes to the man I love, silently holding hands on the train to Brighton whilst a raucous hen party whooped and screeched, lying on the beach in the early hours of the morning with the pier lights twinkling and the sound of the sea pulling up the shingle and letting it go again.

This morning I made my way to the greengrocers like a thirsty traveller. I filled my basket with; orange carrots, shiny, thin skinned clementines, bright waxy lemons, purple beets, sherbet pink rhubarb, fresh mint and basil and pearl white spring onions. The scent of basil and mint escaped from my bike panniers as I rode home with a dozen organic eggs and some cream nestling in there too.

This evening I set about making my pea torte. The spring onions sighed in the sizzling butter and the kitchen sang with the scent of freshly torn basil and mint. I poured the green mixture into a tin thickly buttered and strewn with Parmesan, scattering another handful over the top, to make that intensely savoury crust and gave it up to the heat of the oven.

In forty minutes it was done, the kitchen smelled of baked pesto as I unmolded the torte in front of Fin and his friend Immy. 'Is that a cake?' they both asked in unison - confused by the olfactory messages they were getting from the cheese. 'Well I guess it's a pea cake, try it and see what you think...'

And despite my misgivings about the acceptability of a green cake, studded most obviously with peas, they gobbled it up and Fin stole an extra piece of crust while I had my back turned.





I made it a little differently from the original recipe because I can't eat ricotta and there must be a typo somewhere because the recipe calls for 3 kilos of peas! 3 kilos to fit into an 8 inch sandwich tin! I used just a kilo and it was still too thick. But it was green and savoury, a chlorophyll hit for my winter white palate.

I'm going to tinker with the recipe a little and give it to you when its just right.