Petits pois a la Francaise

Go green: a fine dish in its own right, Petits pois a la Francaise is also the perfect accompaniment to roast quail or squab pigeon.

One of the very finest French vegetable dishes of all.

Petits pois à la Française (serves 4)

75g butter
1 large cos lettuce, untrimmed
400g freshly podded peas
The white part of 6 spring onions, thickly sliced
Salt and white pepper
Large pinch of sugar
Several mint sprigs

Pre-heat the oven to 150 ̊C/300 ̊F/gas mark 2. Melt the butter in a large, stainless-steel pan. Cut the lettuce into thick slices (discard the hard stalk) and add to the pan with the peas. Add the onions, a little seasoning, sugar and the mint sprigs. Mix together over a low heat until the lettuce is beginning to wilt.

Cut out a circle of greaseproof paper slightly larger than the width of the pan, wet it with warm water so that it’s floppy, then press it down on the surface of the vegetables while pressing the overhang against the inside of the pan, so that it fits well. Put the lid on the pan and set over the merest thread of heat.

Cook for about 30–40 minutes, without stirring, until the peas have turned a pale olive green and are surrounded by rich, buttery juices. Fish out the mint sprigs and serve forthwith.

I can eat this lovely dish all on its own, but it’s also very good served with a dish of roast quails or, more luxuriously—and even better—a squab pigeon.