How was your Christmas? Ours has gone well, though we spent much of Christmas Eve in the kitchen cooking.
Our Christmas meal consisted of pelēkie zirņi ar sīpoliem un speķi (grey peas with bacon and onions), speķa rauši (Latvian bacon and onion rolls), a spiral-sliced ham, šķovēti kāposti (braised sauerkraut), apple cobbler and mulled wine. (Mmm.. mulling spices + inexpensive merlot.. Wonderful.)
On Wednesday, I told you that we’d been waiting all year for one special dish.
These, my friend, are pelēkie zirņi. Grey peas. This is also the last of our supply we brought with us from Latvia and, unfortunately, will be the last until we go back.
I don’t know why we don’t have these in the States. You’d think we would, since we’re supposedly this huge melting pot of immigrants and grey peas, which are eaten by people all across Europe from England to Russia, should be here too. (Although apparently the French only advocate eating these as a “famine food.”)
Instead, I find …nothing. My dad-in-law found that the scientific name for them is Pisum arvense L., which seem to be sold only as seed to produce deer food in the States and not, as far as I can tell, for human consumption. I haven’t quite decided whether or not it’s safe to buy seeds — they sometimes are sprayed with fertilizers and other nasties, so that wouldn’t be good eats. Another name for them seems to be Austrian Winter Peas, but I haven’t found anything more than seed-sites for those either.
Ordinarily, I’d simply ask family to ship us some, but currently, Latvijas Pasts is giving my mom-in-law issues over sending plant matter. If Latvijas Pasts is having issues, I somehow think that US Customs probably wouldn’t appreciate it much either. BalticShop.com, the only importer I’ve found, isn’t selling grey peas this year, unusually. There may be some prohibition I’m unaware of at the moment since they usually sell them every year. (Though you should check them out, they have a lot of nifty stuff for sale from the Baltics, including bread subscriptions from Lāči, the primo bakery in Rīga.)
So, this is the last of our wonderful, wonderful peas. We hoarded them all year so we could have them again for Christmas, as is traditional. Last year, we made a bacon sauce with flour and heavy cream, but this year, we went with something simpler. When we go back to Latvia, we will definitely be bringing a few kilos back with us!
If you know of any importer or shop in either the US or Canada that sells grey peas, please let me know!
Pelēkie zirņi ar sīpoliem un speķi
Grey Peas with Bacon and Onions (Latvian-style) [printable recipe]
- 1 cup dried grey peas
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1/4 lb bacon ends, finely diced (50/50 fat to meat)
- salt and pepper
Soak peas overnight in lots of water. Drain, rinse and pick over for stones. Pour into a pot and cover with plenty of water. Salt water liberally. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 2 hours or so, until peas are tender with a bit of bite (al dente).
When peas are nearly done, fry up onion and bacon together with some salt and pepper (to taste) until everything is nicely browned. Spoon bacon and onions over a bowl of peas, mix in and enjoy.