I have stated many times before, I love field peas and go on mad buying frenzies when they are in season at the farmers market. I put many of the peas up in the freezer, but my standard weekend summer supper is field peas, fresh corn and tomatoes. It’s easy to set a pot of peas simmering on the back of the stove while I get on with my obsessive summer canning. And it the end of a day of making jar after jar of jams, relishes and pickles, it’s nice to have a comforting supper waiting without much extra work. Some days, though, I am looking to jazz things up a bit, to add a little extra to my standard field pea pot. And I think cornbread is a wonderful way to do that, so I tend to fiddle around with the ingredients I have on hand.
Lady peas are at the top of my field pea love list, not least because of the sweet and pretty name. My go to is butter braised lady peas, served with pillowy buttermilk hoecakes. This recipe is a riff on that basic formula, and I’ll be honest, it came to me because I like the silliness of the name lady peas and lacy cakes. The lady peas here are served with a lightly creamy, but not at all heavy, sauce, this one inspired by my Southern Girl Butter Beans. Lacy cakes are a traditional cornbread preparation, in which the cornmeal batter is sizzled in hot oil to produce lacy edges and an open bubbly crumb. They are the perfect foil for delicate lady peas. So here’s to a new twist to summer supper.
- 1 pound fresh lady peas
- 3 strips bacon
- 1 small shallot or ¼ of an onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3 -4 stems of fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- 3 cups whole buttermilk
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- vegetable oil
- Place the lady peas, bacon, onion half, garlic clove and seasoning in a heavy saucepan. Add water just to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook until the beans are tender, about an hour. When the beans are done, strain the beans, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Remove and discard the bacon, thyme stems, bay leafs, onion (which may have fallen into pieces – fish them all out) and garlic cloves if you can find them.
- Now make the sauce. Wipe out the pot and melt the butter in it. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until smooth. Slowly pour in the cooking liquid, whisking until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Add lots of pepper to taste. Add the beans and stir to coat with the sauce. Warm the beans through. Season with salt to taste.
- Beat the egg and buttermilk together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal, baking soda and salt and stir until thoroughly combined. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, then give it a good stir. Generously grease a shallow skillet or griddle pan with vegetable oil. You want more than just a light coating, but we are not deep frying here, so just a little pool of oil. When the oil is shimmering, scoop a ¼ cup of batter into the hot oil and spread into a circle from the center of the cake. Cook until golden brown on one side, about three minutes, then flip over and cook until crisp on the other side. Remove to a wire rack or a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with the remaining batter. Add more oil as needed. The cakes can be kept warm in a low oven.