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Parched Peas for Bonfire Night (& Other Nights)

Carlin Peas make a great substitute for puy lentils or chickpeas in salads, stews, curries and dips, but traditionally they're eaten 'parched' - particularly in the north of England and especially on Bonfire Night.

Parched peas and a bag of potatoes from Preston's Flag Market

Carlin Peas (or black badgers, brown badgers, grey peas, maple peas, black peas...) make a great substitute for puy lentils or chickpeas in salads, stews, curries and dips, but traditionally they're eaten 'parched' - particularly in the north of England and especially on Bonfire Night.

Served at festivals and fairs and sold in paper cones in pubs across the northern counties, parched peas were a very common street food for at least a couple of hundred years. These days they're much harder to find, indeed Slow Food UK has designated the peas they're made with a forgotten food; to be cherished, celebrated and hopefully introduced to a wider audience.

I ate my first parched peas over 20 years ago on Preston's Flag Market. Back then I never imagined that I'd end up selling carlin peas, but when we set up Hodmedod in 2012 I was delighted that we were able to include them in our initial range (and later add what I think are the only British-grown organic black peas).

If you've never tried parched peas why not make them this November? They're a delicious - and nutritious - snack on a cold night. And if you remember parched peas from your childhood but haven't been able to find the ingredients I hope we can help!

Inevitably with a very traditional food there are lots of fiercely defended recipe variations for parched peas; on their own or with bacon? Butter or no butter? Rum and sugar, salt and pepper or just vinegar? In the end there seem to be two basic approaches to preparing them and then a range of flavourings depending on region or family tradition. The recipe below outlines the basic recipe then suggests a few variations.

Ingredients

  • 200g dried Carlin Peas
  • salt
  • pepper
  • malt vinegar
  • butter

Method

  1. Soak the peas overnight, you can add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to really soften the peas when they cook but it does affect the flavour and nutritional quality of the peas - unless you're in a very hard water area it shouldn't be necessary.
  2. Drain and rinse the peas.
  3. Bring to the boil in plenty of water and then simmer until soft (about an hour on the hob or 30 minutes in a pressure cooker). The peas will create a rich brown sauce as they cook.
  4. Once soft stir in a big knob of butter, add generous amounts of salt and pepper and plenty of malt vinegar
  5. Serve by the bonfire in mugs

Variations

When the peas have cooked through you can drain them and pop them in a hot oven for 5 or 10 minutes to dry out a bit - then add the salt, pepper, vinegar.

Once cooked the peas can be transferred to a large frying pan and the sauce further thickened (then add the flavourings).

Instead of salt, pepper and vinegar why not try brown sugar, butter and rum? Herby parched peas are also very good - thyme, rosemary and sage; perhaps even a bit of garlic. Parched peas are delicious with other spices - chilli, ginger and cumin all work very well.

If you have a favourite way of preparing parched peas or a fond memory of eating them please do use the comment section to tell us all about it.




Josiah Meldrum
Josiah Meldrum

Author



2 Responses

Charlotte  Barker
Charlotte Barker

April 15, 2017

I ate patchy peas in Lancaster 1940—1950’s.
Bought as a child in a paper corn.
Just like soft peas still warm from cooking @ the local sweet/ grocery shop.
Never thought to check out online before to see the correct source etc.

Steph Bain
Steph Bain

March 21, 2017

So glad to have found these on ur site!!! I’m a black Country lass but now reside in Scotland with my partner. I had him try some grey peas and bacon once when we went back down south to visit family.
Grey peas or….." Gray pays n Bercon " as it’s known where I come from is one of my all time favourite meals served with crusty buttered bread…method used is carling peas soaked over night. Drain and rinse. Put in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil leave to simmer for 45 mins. Add 3 beef stock cubes….maybe 4 depending on the amount of peas used. Leave again to simmer on very low heat for about an hour…. add more water if needed but not to much. Fry off a 11b bag of bacon bits….. not the lardons!!! U can purchase bacon bits either smoked or uncooked from either ur butcher or from morrisons. Once the peas have started to split u can add the bacon. Leave for anger 30 mins on a low heat….. u can add a chopped onion or a leek at the beginning of the process if u wish and that’s it grey peas and bacon…. super easy super tasty and super cheap!!! ?

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