Parched Peas for Bonfire Night (& Other Nights)

Parched Peas for Bonfire Night (& Other Nights)

by Josiah Meldrum October 13, 2015 14 Comments

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.

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



14 Responses

Craig Peacock
Craig Peacock

June 09, 2020

Oh my word what a blast from the past!!
I first tried Parched Peas as a kid from a hawker on Rivington Pike in the 1970s.
Just made them for lunch today and the kids love them too!!
Great memories brought back – thanks for the simple but delicious recipe and to Hodmedods for keeping the faith!!!

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson

April 21, 2020

We always used to have blak pea soup on Bonfire Night. Still cook them now and then. Just got a batch on to soak. They are available from several stalls in Ashton-under-Lyne’s market.

Vanessa
Vanessa

April 21, 2020

Remember having bonfire beans in glossop a few years ago. Loved them and was delighted recently to see Carlin peas in our local ethical shop. Taking inspiration from other suggestions I’ve mixed them with bacon bits, treacle, thyme, sage and pinch of cayenne. Will be having them tonight as part of tapas starter course.

Andy Parker
Andy Parker

January 17, 2020

Got some friends round this afternoon so I’m making a batch now. I’m salivating already!!!

Neil Owens
Neil Owens

January 17, 2020

I bought these peas as I too first tasted rhese on Preston Flag market in my youth…often after attending the “Pot Fair”..which was another wierd northern thing!

Lucie
Lucie

September 16, 2019

I moved to East Anglia from Lancashire in 2000 and always crave ‘black peas’. I did find some about 5 years ago (I think they were fishing peas but I figured black peas are black peas) and my lad (who has grown up here in the flatlands) loved them. Just ordered the hodmedods for an upcoming Norfolk Broads boat holiday with parents and Son – they are going to be great for lunches on the chug, in a mug, with some nice fresh bread to soaky up that flavoury pea gravy

Mary Pattison
Mary Pattison

June 09, 2020

I was born and raised in Preston. As a child, Thursday evening was our regular night for visiting our maternal grandparents. During the winter months the ‘parched pea man’ used to come around the streets, on foot, with a wicker basket full of triangular ‘pokes’ of parched peas. When we heard his handbell ring Granddad would give us 3d each – what a treat! Later, when I was old enough to go into pubs, the parched pea men would do the rounds of the local hostelries. I don’t know when the tradition of the travelling parched pea men fizzled out but Prestonians continued to get their parched pea fix at the corner of Preston Flag Market. I hope they still can. I bought a pack of Hodmedods at my local wholefood shop in Castle Douglas today and can’t wait to rediscover one of my favourite flavours of childhood.

Anne Thorn
Anne Thorn

September 03, 2018

Bought these in my wholefood shop in Exeter. When they were cooked they were so like the ‘gunga peas’ aka ’pigeon peas ’ I remember from visits to the Caribbean that I made that good old staple, rice ’n peas with them. Just superb and I now have them in stock all the time. Thank you!

Hilary Minor
Hilary Minor

May 03, 2018

I’ve just made up the Parched Peas recipe given above and, I must say, it’s a flavour sensation! I am so glad to have come across these and your website, Hodmedods :-) The carlin peas (I had never heard of them before) have given a really rich juice and the added malt vinegar lifts the flavour to new heights. I added a bit of pomegranate syrup to add a bit of sweetness and they’re just lovely.

jane davis
jane davis

June 09, 2018

I am a Northern Lass originally from Yorkshire but am exiled in Lancashire after marrying a Lancashire lad, and neither of us had heard of Lancashire Black Peas! So I bought some from you on line and they are soaking as I type…My old man’s a Veggie so anything new is a treat…will let you know what we think. But thanks for resurrecting these beans.

Lisa
Lisa

May 03, 2018

Sat here eating parched peas for the first time in about 15 years! Thank you Hodmedod’s. Parched peas, potatoes and an overly generous helping of grated cheese was a staple for a Saturday shopping day in Preston town centre from ‘the potato train’, but now in the south of England I’m parched pealess. I recently saw the TV programme ‘Back in Time for Tea’ and they had ‘black peas’ – which left me screaming out “parched peas” at the television, much to the confusion of my non-Lancastrian boyfriend, and led to a frantic search of the internet to see if I could buy the peas. And so I did…yum I think I’ve overdone the vinegar in this helping….but there’s worse things in life :)

Maureen Robinson
Maureen Robinson

March 08, 2018

I ate them as a girl 50+ years ago and I’m sure we bought them from the pet shop. They were called pidgeon peas. I guess we soaked them, and we used to fry them in butter and put salt on them. They were delicious. Don’t know if we actually cooked them first.

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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