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Eating In: Give peas a chance

As we miss the tricks of their trade, grow your own plants which give food cheffy flourishes

15 May, 2020 — By Tom Moggach

FOR the restaurants, the latest news is crushing – no chance of opening until at least July 4.

Most chefs are stuck at home, fidgety and desperate. The rest of us crave the tricks of their trade: whacks of bold flavour; the aroma of exotic herbs; the friendly hum of conversation.

You can find some solace online, where experts are hosting virtual cookery classes. I’ve signed up for Diaspo (www.joindiaspo.com), where you can join a live cook-along.

On Saturday evening, for example, I’ll be making Tarka Dal with a lady called Amrita, who is originally from Northern India.

Other options on Diaspo include a Japanese teriyaki or Peruvian stir fry, all hosted for free by a medley of passionate cooks. You will also find cookery classes on YouTube and Instagram.

If you enjoy growing plants, you could also cultivate pea shoots and micro greens – those cheffy flourishes that add colour and punchy flavours to any dish.

To grow pea shoots, for example, start by sourcing dried peas. You can use bags of marrowfats (a type of dried pea), which are widely available from supermarkets and health food shops.

Soak a few handfuls overnight in tepid water. The following day, drain and get ready to sow very thickly – one single layer, with the seeds almost touching.

You don’t need to be precise about spacing.

Use any shallow container, such as a takeaway container, wooden tray or seed tray. (If it’s recycled, carefully puncture a few drainage holes in the bottom).

Fill with compost to about 2cm from the top. Water until moist but not wet. Sow your soaked peas and cover with another 1cm of compost.

Place your container somewhere with bright natural light, such as a windowsill, balcony or back garden. Check every day to make sure the compost remains moist.

Around three or four weeks later, you’ll have a thicket of pea seedlings which you can snip and enjoy. They’re worryingly addictive – the crunchy, sweet essence of pea.

You can deploy the same technique to grow micro greens. These are the tiny herb seedlings that chefs often use to decorate the plate.

These are packed with nutrients and a great boost for your immune system. The photo below shows my dill and coriander, grown in a length of old guttering.

You can try it with rocket, dill, coriander, radish, basil, fennel, spinach, tarragon or even cress.

The whole process only takes a few weeks, so you’ll have a cheering crop to harvest as the lockdown eases.

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