There are some tastes that define a region. For me, as someone growing up in the North East of England, that taste is Pease Pudding. This dish of boiled yellow split peas, eaten hot (as in the nursery rhyme), or spread on bread can take me back there like no other taste on earth. The taste is simple with the earthy sweetness of the peas all there is to it, but that honesty of ingredients and purpose makes this far more than the sum of its parts. And the purpose of the dish is that of poverty, the pease pudding would be made alongside (and sometimes in the same pot as) the piece of bacon or ham it will supplement. The traditional way of serving it is in a bread bun (preferably a stotty) with a slice of ham and maybe a pickle – I preferred pickled onions, but there’s a strong case to be made for pickled beetroot. That is why you will see a pot of yellow paste in the cold meat counters of most butchers in the NE.
Although ham/bacon stock was a traditional ingredient, most commercial pease puddings (and it’s big business in the NE) is made with vegetable stock or just water. I prefer to use vegetable stock.
I’ve sometimes heard pease pudding called the ‘Geordie hummus’, which never set well with me. In the course of researching this recipe I’ve discovered that it is the exact analogy of the greek dish, fava.
I’m such a fan of pease pudding that I’ll happily eat it on bread or toast on its own, but it’s supposed to be eaten alongside something else: something sharp and vinegary or lemony for preference.
Cooking time is only a guideline, I’m afraid. It very much depends on how old or awkward your split peas are. I don’t think I’ve cooked this in under 90 minutes, but 120+ is not that unusual. I’ve specified enough water for a 90 minute simmer, but add more if it goes over that amount of time. You want the hot pudding to be fairly loose like wallpaper paste – it will thicken up as it cools.
200g yellow split peas, soaked overnight in plenty of water
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder, or 1 vegetable stock cube
Drain and rinse the split peas.
Add to a saucepan and add the water.
Bring to a fast simmer.
A white foamy scum will float to the top, skim this off.
Stir in the bouillon powder or stock cube.
Cover and lower the temperature to a gentle simmer.
Simmer for 90 minutes or until the peas are tender. They should mush against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Stir vigorously until you have a smooth paste (the odd lump isn’t a problem.)
Season generously with salt and pepper.
Transfer to a basin or covered container and leave to cool.
Serve spread on bread with as many additions as you think necessary!