Friers are being advised to adjust their steeping procedures when making mushy peas after some batches are taking longer than others to cook.
It’s all down to the high summer temperatures and a lack of moisture, which baked peas whilst in their pods, leading to variations in the crop.
Tony Rogers, chairman of fish and chip shop supplier VA Whitley, comments: “Several customers have returned bags of marrowfats saying that they will not cook. I exchanged some yesterday that had been on the stove for six hours without success! What friers need to remember is that marrowfats are a natural product and, just like wheat or potatoes, the crop will vary depending on the weather. Because of the way the pea pods grow - they hang down - the peas at the top of the pods really got baked, leading to a variation in dryness through the crops.
“Our pea men have done their best to get the pick of the crop, but we are finding slight variations with a few peas in the degree of mushiness that they achieve.”
Friers are therefore being advised to steep marrowfats for longer and only use cold water, as Tony explains further: “When you cut any vegetable off its root a process of decomposition sets in. With dried marrowfat that is stopped because the water has been taken out. To get them cookable, you reintroduce water to them.
“Some shops use bicarb, soda crystals or a steeping tablet to soften the peas in steep and allow them to reconstitute more quickly, which is fine. Just remember that peas left in water for too long, especially warm water, will go sour and will leave a scum on top. Once there is a heavy scum, they will never cook. So it’s a balance of using cold water and allowing enough time for the pea skins to break down and the water to ingress.”
A simple test to tell if the peas are ready, says Tony, is to take one out of the steeping water and taste it. “OK, it’s going to be a bit solid but you should get the nearest flavour to a fresh pea out of a pod. So keep testing them and make sure they’ve taken up enough water.”
He adds: “Just as friers make adjustments for the variance in the frying qualities of different potato deliveries and adjust their batter to cope with changes in the weather, so it is with dried marrowfats – especially this season.”