This was another one of those Goldilocks recipes, where it took a little bit of work to find the perfect fit. I love the pea pancakes at a cool little German eatery nearby, where they serve them with chive-flecked sour cream and rich smoked salmon, but couldn’t quite get my own version to work at home. I tried out a leek fritter recipe from an otherwise reliable cookbook, but those were just okay. Then I put the peas and leeks together, took out this and added a dash of that, until finally, it worked. It worked! Toothsome texture, first-taste-of-spring flavor, lovely seasoning, not too heavy, not too light. Just right. I think they’re more pancake than fritter now, but the point’s debatable. I’ll leave that up to you.
The winning version made an appearance at my mother’s dinner table, alongside roasted asparagus and a salad for a Lenten dinner (no meat on Fridays) and I’ll likely serve them next for a late brunch (with eggs en cocotte, maybe). Smaller pancakes would be perfect as two-bite canapés for an Easter celebration; add a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprig of dill or chives to dress them up.
- 3/4 lb fresh English peas (in their pods) or 1 cup frozen
- 3 large leeks (about 1/2 lb, after trimming)
- 1/2 C shallots, finely chopped (about 3 med-large shallots)
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 C flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 3/4 tsp dried coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground tumeric
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 3/4 tsp plus 1/2 tsp salt, divided
- 1/2 C all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg plus 1 egg white
- 1/3 C milk, room temperature
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Shell the peas and set aside. To prep the leeks, discard the green leafy tops and dark green stalks. Slice the leeks into 1″ slices and rinse well in a colander to remove any silt. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the leeks (don’t worry about drying them off) and shallots and season with 3/4 tsp salt; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until softened. Add the peas, parsley and dried spices. Cook for 5-8 minutes, smashing the mixture with a wooden spoon or potato masher until about 1/3 of the peas are mashed. Let cool a bit.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, eggs, milk and butter together to make a batter. Fold in the vegetable mixture to combine.
Wipe down the sauté pan with a paper towel and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Spoon half of the batter into four large fritters and fry, 2-3 minutes per side, until golden browned and crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and keep warm. Serve with sour cream or crème fraîche, if desired.
Note: you can sauté the vegetables ahead, up to 2 days. You can also hold the fritters in a warm, 200 degree oven until serving (about 20-30 minutes) but for the best texture, they’re best served right away. The recipe doubles very well.