As far as I’m aware, the name parched peas is very localised to the part of Lancashire where I grew up. My mother would make parched peas for bonfire night (and popcorn too, and we’d have treacle toffee) which is when it’s traditional to eat them. But you can buy them from the potato carts on Preston flag market all year round, in a little polystyrene cup with pepper and vinegar to add as you wish. The potato carts are something of an institution (we just called them the potato men when I was a kid). As well as parched peas you can buy steamed little potatoes, either in a bag with salt and a little pat of butter, or in a tray with cheese, baked beans or coleslaw.
Of course I don’t buy potatoes from the potato man now that I eat vegan, but I do sometimes make a vegan version at home when I really need comfort food…
Anyway, back to the parched peas! I believe they’re called carlins in north east England, and black peas in other parts of Lancashire, whichever way though, they’re absolutely delicious.
I love the scent that permeates the bungalow while they’re cooking (black/turtle beans, are another type of bean with a great scent), and I do believe I like the broth that surrounds them as much as the actual peas..! My version uses some herbs, so it’s not completely traditional, but it is super tasty. They’re delicious plain too though, very comforting.
When I make them I eat a bowlful hot with vinegar and pepper, and then the rest are used as part of work lunches. They’re lovely cold as a salad, and any left over broth is a great addition to soups, particularly lentil.
makes 4 to 6 servings
150 g pigeon/maple peas
350 – 450 ml boiling water, plus extra for pre-soaking
1 dried or 2 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp lemon thyme leaves, or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 small sprigs rosemary (just the top bits of the branch), or 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
A large pinch of salt
Vinegar and pepper to serve.
Rinse the peas in a sieve, and then cover them in boiling water and soak for 1.5 – 3 hours. The peas will absorb some of the water so top it up during this time if needed. The longer the soaking time, the shorter the cooking time so you can adjust as it suits you.
Preheat the oven to fan 140 c
Place the peas and the herbs in a casserole dish (I used a 20 cm cast iron one). Pour in 350 ml boiling water and cook in the oven, covered, for 1.5 – 3 hours. I check if the water needs topping up after the first hour, older peas will take longer to cook (hence the rather vague cooking time!) and may need another top up later in the cooking process. There should be a fair amount of pea stock at the end, you don’t want them to be dry. If you would rather cook them on the hob, they’ll take less time, but I prefer the oven method, just for convenience really.
When the peas are softened and shedding their skins in the stock, they’re ready.
Salt them now, they may need quite a lot.
Serve a small bowl or a mugful per person with white pepper and vinegar to taste.
Malt vinegar would be traditional but I like white balsamic, the slight sweetness goes very well with the other flavours. I always use white pepper as I love the heat with the peas, but black pepper would be fine too.