Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old
Some like it hot, some like it cold
Some like it in the pot, nine days old

 

Two of us flew up to Newcastle last week and we were met by a colleague who told us “before you go you have to try some pease pudding. I’m going to make you some at my house, and it’ll be a real treat for you”.

 

What is pease pudding exactly?

“What exactly is pease pudding?” I enquired cautiously.

“It‘s Geordie caviar – you know what pea and ham soup is like?” Yes, I confirmed. “Well, it’s like that only extra thick”. I was intrigued. I like pea and ham soup.

From then on the idea of us trying this local delicacy produced mostly smiles although a citizen of rival town Sunderland shook his head and assured us we would definitely not like it.

In the event there were a lot of surprises…..

 

Pease pudding is not green, it’s yellow – made of yellow split peas

First surprise was that it came, ready-made, in a tub – and it was yellow. I had been expecting green, but in fact pease pudding is made of yellow split peas. The ham wasn’t integral which is what I’d been expecting. It’s supermarket provenance made it seem a little less exotic!

 

Eat with bread – ideally a butty, or even better, with giraffe (aka tiger) bread

Second was that it was used as an element in a kind of butty – into a fresh white bun went a couple of slices of ham and two or three spoons of pease pudding. After some experimentation however I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s even better on giraffe bread as a sort of open sandwich. Why? The crust of the giraffe bread is specially treated to produce a crunchier crust. The crunchiness contrasts brilliantly with the mushiness of the pease pudding and the rest of the soft bread itself.

 

Mustard is essential – strong English mustard

“Hmmm, it’s quite nice” we commented – third surprise.

Then after some considered chewing I asked, “I think it’s rather good, but do you think a little mustard might go down rather well with it?” “Oh yes” was the response, “I always have mustard…. But I didn’t think you’d like it”. Fourth surprise. Why not? Do people from the south of England have a reputation for not liking mustard?

 

German and Greek versions of pease pudding

Pease pudding is also sometimes known as pease pottage or pease porridge. It’s also eaten in Germany (particularly in Berlin) where it’s known as erbspüree. And it’s not wholly dissimilar to Greek fava, which is also often made with split yellow beans (rather than fava beans. Fava is served with olive oil and spring onions (the onion giving the requisite kick which mustard gives to the English pease pudding).

 

What to serve it with, and what to do with the leftovers

Pease pudding is often served with ham (I think Yorkshire breaded ham is ideal, as in the featured image), with ham hock, with gammon (it was originally a way of making a very small piece of gammon go a far as possible). Leftover pease pudding can also be fried.

 

A bit of history

It’s mentioned in Richard II’s chef’s 14th century recipe book, a forme of cury as ‘perry of pesoun’, and also by the diarist, Samuel Pepys, writing a century later, “I went home and dined with my wife on pease porridge and nothing else”. Without the mustard and the ham it must have been horridly bland.

 

What’s with the nursery rhyme? Why does it feature in that?

And what of the nursery rhyme? Why nine days? Its apparently propaganda produced by supporters of Queen Mary I who were trying to put the previous queen, Lady Jane Grey, the ‘nine-days-queen’, into disrepute by suggesting that rather than being royal she was, like pease porridge, associated with basic peasant stock.

 

More information on Newcastle food

For more information on food in Newcastle go to the excellent blog, Geordie Caviar.

 

 

You really want to make it? The supermarket version was awfully good. If you do, this is how:

 

Recipe for pease pudding, aka Geordie caviar

 

NB: You’ll find a number of recipes which suggest that you soak the split peas overnight. Check the packet, but six hours soaking will save only half an hour’s cooking time – why bother?

 

  • 500g/1 lb 2 oz yellow split peas, soaked overnight as described.
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 carrot, cut in half horizontally
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 25g/1 oz/ walnut of butter
  • Smoked salt and freshly ground pepper (white, for aesthetic reasons)
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar

 

  1. Rinse the split peas, drain, put into a saucepan and cover either with stock from a ham you might be cooking, or with hot water and leave for about half an hour.
  2. Add the onion, carrot, thyme, bay leaves and nutmeg and bring to the boil. Simmer, uncovered, for about 50 minutes. The peas should be tender and beginning to fall apart. Skim off the scum.
  3. Take out the onion, carrot and bay leaves.
  4. Blend in the saucepan with a stick blender – it doesn’t need to be too smooth.
  5. Beat in the butter, the pepper, and, if you have used just plain water to cook the peas, some salt. Add the vinegar.
  6. Serve warm

 

This post is dedicated, with thanks, to Mike Heddon

pease pudding recipe

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