Tarka mushy peas

It had to be fish and chips today. I’m at the seaside after all – the lovely yet ever-so-slightly unthrilling British seaside. We’re staying in Aldeburgh where the beach is a pebble’s throw from our little cottage and the high street is stuffed full of delis and cafés. It’s a chilled place. The air is clean, the sea is cold and looking out on it somehow soothes the soul. Over the next few days, if the sun makes more of a concerted appearance, we’ll head for the bucket and spade charm of Southwold and amble up its quirky pier. And then there’s crabbing in neighbouring Walberswick. In my opinion there is no finer way to spend the day than dangling off-cuts of bacon into a muddy brook in the hope of trapping a bunch of cross crabs.


Happiness is waking up in a creaky yet pristinely maintained holiday cottage to the sound of shrieking gulls and thoughts of seaside activities rather than work/home to-do lists. I am aware these moments are finite. That one day, when my son hits his teens, he’ll realise how uncool his parents are and then we’ll have to drag him off on holiday with us. There’ll be boredom in his eyes and indifference in his heart, and something minor will trigger an argument and we’ll all end up resenting each other… Ok, so it might never happen. But I’ll enjoy every minute in case it does.

One thing we don’t argue about is the greatness of fish and chips. By fish and chips I mean actual fish. Sounds obvious but for my wife fish and chips means ordering chicken and chips. To others it means pie and chips. And sometimes it means the holy mamma of guilty food pleasures that is jumbo battered sausage and chips. However varied our protein choices, we are bound together by the universal love of chips. Fried chipped potatoes from other establishments have a boring uniformity. Chippie chips, however, are varied and only reveal their true nature when that slightly soggy paper is unwrapped. Some are greasy, some are large and fluffy, others are shrivelled and dry, or short and stubby, bronzed and crisp, or pale and floppy. At the end of the day they’re all good.


What I can’t seem to get my head round is mushy peas. Sometimes I order them just because I feel I should, yet in my opinion they always disappoint – not fresh enough to act as a decent veggie side dish, too bland to act as a worthy sauce. Their texture reminds me of a slow cooked Indian dhal, so I tried spicing them up with a tarka to add vibrancy and punch.

So I got everything chopped and prepared before I headed out to the Golden Galleon. I fidgeted impatiently in the queue as thick cuts of cod and haddock were served up in glistening batter. The air was thick with the unmistakable hum of beef dripping. I rushed back with my warm paper parcel and heated up ghee in a small pan before adding garam masala, chopped onions, garlic, ginger and chilli. I sizzled everything on a high heat for a few minutes, after which I stirred this mixture through mushy peas along with a final big squeeze of lemon juice.


Ingredients: mushy peas, garam masala, onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, lemon juice


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