Before the break I wrote about a memorable week's butchery course at the Edinburgh School of Food & Wine. As well as cutting up animals, we did a fair bit of cooking. Course teacher Ash and I lunched very well, and usually quite late, to the discomfiture of trouble and strife L. Not only did she get no food brought home the first four days, she had a husband who was too full to cook. C'est la vie, as we say in France.
I'm grateful to Ash for sending me all the recipes and to Nyssa, owner of ESFW, for permission to reproduce them here. I've enjoyed peas done in the French style before, but had never made them. As you would expect with any classic French recipe, there are as many versions as there are chefs. For an interesting discourse on the history and variations of this dish, see Felicity Cloake's recent article in The Guardian. I have to say that Ash's recipe is pretty darn fine. It goes very well with chicken. Forgive the poncey title, but chicken and peas just isn't the same. Incidentally, the word volaille is the generic French word for poultry, but if you see it on a menu, it probably means you're getting chicken.
Ingredients (serves 1)
1 chicken breast (Ash would recommend skin on, but see below); 2 thick slices of streaky bacon, cut into lardons; ½ shallot, peeled and roughly chopped; 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely sliced; 200ml chicken stock; 40g frozen peas; 1 Baby Gem lettuce, sliced vertically; sprig of thyme; 15ml double cream (optional); s & p; oil for cooking.
Start with the chicken. I tend to discard the skin unless roasting, but purists would tell you not to. The first reason is that fat is flavour; secondly by cooking with the skin on you can get a lovely colour. So let's do it Ash's way.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/Mark 6. Season the chicken breast on both sides with s & p. Heat an oven proof frying pan to medium, and add a little drop of oil. Place the chicken in skin side down and cook until golden. Turn and cook for one more minute then put the pan in the oven for 12 - 15 minutes, depending on size. A temperature probe should read 70 - 75˚C.
Leave to rest for 5 minutes, skin side up.
While the chicken is cooking prepare the peas. Get a pan nice and hot an add a small drop of oil. Cook the lardons until they colour and start to release their fat. Add the diced shallot and cook for a couple of minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and thyme to the pan and cook until the shallot is soft. You may have to reduce the heat a little to avoid burning the garlic. Deglaze the pan with the stock, and increase the heat to reduce the liquid by 50%. Add the peas and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sliced baby gem and cream if using, and cook for a further minute or so. Adjust the seasoning and serve at once.