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.