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Recently, on a particularly dreary day, I found myself flicking wistfully through the  travel section of a broadsheet newspaper. As I sat on the sofa, slumped in my none-too-glam trackie bottoms and fleece-lined Crocs I tortured myself with page after page of unobtainable ‘bourgeois’ – which I believe is Russian for ‘jealous-making’ – holiday destinations. I ogled double-page spread after double-page spread of nut-brown bodies frolicking on pristine, deserted beaches, drooled over photos of towel-clad bodies being pummeled by tiny ladies with big muscles, and scanned ads promising, variously, views of the Northern lights, ‘big game’ and Alpine meadows in bloom. All while sitting listening to hail zing off the roof. And contemplating the wind shredding more twigs and branches from our scarily-close oak tree.

Well wouldn’t you know, all of this holiday lusting and tree-paranoia made me hungry.
For some inexplicable reason I hazily remembered the tiny two-bite pea pies from a holiday to Malta some 20+ years ago. Although what I most remember about the trip was the spectacular – and touchable – archeology of the place, and swimming in a deserted cove as the sun set before us, I also vividly remember being intrigued by the locals lining up outside the storefront pastizzi shops that face out onto the choppy sea. We  cannily joined in after glimpsing the tiny but plump pastries glistening in eager Maltese hands. They were truly queue worthy. I think we had them most days that we were there. Looking back I recall the glossy layered pastry, and the pea-ness of them, but little else. So I set about looking up how to make pastizzi on the Internet. As you do.

Most of what I found was either meat based, had homemade puff pastry or an equally faffy, labour-intensive dough, or was non-specific with the ingredients and method. I found one that looks nice and relatively simple (but using dried peas – not quick enough for me), and as it is from a Maltese site I’m sure it is authentic. But while I was thinking about it all, and getting  hungrier and hungrier, I got it into my head that I wanted it to be a little bit spicy. But just a little. Like a samosa for the uninitiated. So I had a wee rummage in the cupboards and put this together. I think it works. See what you think.

You can make these dinky pies vegan by leaving out the cream cheese and subbing in soft tofu. Or just use more peas. You could also do this with ultra-light phyllo or brik pastry. But I had puff, so that’s what I used. For the sake of research I did also try it with lower-fat short crust pastry, but it’s not what I was looking for. Nice try, but no cigar. Feel free to try this recipe with lower fat pastry, but be sure to have it with lots of mango or tamarind chutney to keep it from feeling too ‘diet’, Dirty word, that. Either my way or t’other, serve it with chutney for a delicious, if completely un-Maltese, pea pie experience. Enjoy!

Nutrition notes: When thinking about nutrient-rich foods we often ignore the commonplace and inexpensive in favour of the exotic and pricey. But as is often the case, what we want and need is right in front of us. Peas are a case in point. These ‘great balls of fibre’ (I’m mangling Jerry Lee Lewis. Sorry) contain useful nutrients in abundance, including the polyphenol phytoestrogen coumestrol, a phytonutrient that may help lower risk of stomach cancer and possibly estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. Other phytonutrinets contribute to it being anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic, and all legumes – of which peas are a major one – have lots of doctor-recommended fibre. Peas are also very low in fat, but the fat they do contain help us use the rather impressive amount of beta-carotene, and small but useful amount of Vitamin E rolled up in this extremely useful denizen of the deep-freeze. Bags of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, manganese, folate and thiamin too. And it’s true what they say, frozen is best. At least for peas. Not for Edinburgh-based Floridians. Brrrrr.


Curried Pea Hand-Pies

Not only does this recipe make a lovely light lunch or snack, it is also a quick, tasty nibble to rustle up for unexpected visitors: who wouldn’t feel welcome with an offer of warm-from-the-oven little pies? Ready-rolled pastry makes it even more of a doddle. 

200g/1 heaped cup petit pois or garden peas, frozen
5 spring onions/scallions, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp Tandoori masala or garam masala, or to taste (I used Rajah tandoori masala)*
4 heaped tbsp soft cheese/cream cheese (low-fat is fine)**
a good squirt of fresh lemon juice and heaped 1/2 tsp zest
2 sheets of ready rolled puff pastry, or one block of puff pastry rolled to 2 mm (you probably won’t use all of the latter)
Milk, to glaze
Kalonji seeds/nigella seeds, to garnish (optional)
Mango chutney, to serve

Simmer peas until just cooked though (not mushy), drain and run under cool water. Pop this into a food processor.

Gently sauté the spring onions, adding the tandoori masala once the onions are soft – about two minutes. Add the now-spiced onion to the food processor, along with the soft cheese and lemon juice plus zest. Pulse until it is half smooth and half chunky, or keep it all chunky if you like – or don’t have a food processor. 

Lay out one of the pastry sheets and cut out circles with your largest scone/biscuit cutter (mine is 7.5 cm/3 in), or use a plastic or metal cup. Lay each round onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and top each with a small dollop of pea mix. Fold over the pastry to form a half-moon and pinch to close.  Brush on a little milk and sprinkle over kalonji seeds, if using. Do the same with the other puff pastry sheet, then bake the pies in a 200C/400F oven for 12-15 minutes, or until all are puffed and golden. Serve warm with mango chutney.

pea pie archaeology - only the prints remain


*tandoori masala is a highly aromatic, but not hot, dry blend of spices used to coat meat for grilling. It is great mixed with yogurt to coat not only red meat and chicken, but also tofu and vegetables, or mixed with soft cheese as a dip for anything that you like to dip! Most supermarkets will carry a tandoori masala mix. By the way, ‘masala’ comes from the word ‘masalah,’ which is Urdu for  ‘ingredients’. 

**Vegan option: use soft tofu with perhaps extra lemon and a spoonful of nutritional yeast flakes, if you have them. Or you could just use more peas and onions.
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10 thoughts on “Curried Pea Hand-Pies

  1. Ah…peas! Just love ‘em, and I bet they’d be especially tasty wrapped up in pastry! I still haven’t experimented with any gluten-free pastry save for making a pie crust a couple of years ago, but it’s definitely on my list to make, and this would be a yummy recipe to start with. Fleece lined crocs??? I’m jealous :-)

    1. Peas are so fab but so easy to dismiss as a quick side dish. I have a couple of other pea recipes with which to bore readers rigid!As for pastry, I would be extremely interested in any reliable,easy gluten-free pastry recipe that you come up with & will look out for one from you. No pressure! PS I will be doing blogroll soon and you are top of my list for healthy recipe and nutrition sites. Love your writing and ideas, EA. Thanks for all your lovely comments on mine. :D

  2. Ann says:

    I had forgotten about those wee pea pies until this reminder- now I can’t wait to give them a go. I shall have them as a starter instead of pakora next week with chums who are coming for a curry, Thanks for the memory….

    1. It is strange how my mind works. I can barely remember my mobile number, but I can remember food experiences from my 20s! Anyway, so chuffed you will try this out soon. A much lower fat samosa, I think. Let me know how they turn out. Thanks!

  3. I am a pie fanatic Kellie and these look fabulous! LOVELY little pies and filled with delicious ingredients too….Karen

  4. Bobby says:

    Hi Kelly, only found your blog today and and HOOKED. Your food looks fabulous and i know there’s many recipes I’m eager to try. Thanks. One question..my husband is recovering from treatment for stage 4 tonsil cancer and, although 9 months since end of treatment, he still has a very sensitive, dry mouth and a jaw trismus which makes eating difficult at times. I’m finding it difficult to find enough healthy foods with variety and flavour for him. It all has to be very tender and with lots of juice or gravy . Please do you have any recipes which might be tempting to widen my repertoire. Chicken is particularly difficult for him to swallow. Thanks very much in anticipatio

    1. I do have a number of ideas that haven’t made it to the blog yet. I’ve got your email so if it’s okay with you I’ll contact you this week. So glad you like the blog. I hope some of the recipes already here may suit your husband. Thanks for finding me :D

  5. Kiersten Marek says:

    Reblogged this on Kmareka.com and commented:
    This looks good….

  6. zreyvat says:

    Just made a variation of these… Great taste, thanks for the inspiration :)

If you have time, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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