This dish is best with the sweetest peas of early spring, straight from the garden, but frozen peas are still wonderful if you don't have a backyard vine. You can vary the amounts of either pea variety depending on your preference. I use frozen coconut from my local Indian grocery store (along with the whole seeds that I stock up on in bulk), but I'd love to try it with fresh -- I'm just not sure I'm ready to wrestle with a whole coconut, rolling across the kitchen counter. This dish is inspired by my dear friend, Saraswathi, who's my guru for South Indian-style cooking (my mother-in-law taught me the ways of the north). —Ann S
Test Kitchen Notes
Sweet soft English peas, crunchy sugar snaps, vegetal wilted spinach, earthy spices and the thought of an island in the toasted coconut, all zipped up with a well-timed squeeze of lemon. This is an absolutely delicious side that you may forsake your main dish for. The recipe says that it serves 4, but I ate half with dinner and I am eating the rest right now for lunch (it’s good cold too!). Added bonus – it is also (brace yourself) easy-peasy to make. Yep, I went there. —aargersi
frozen shredded coconut, thawed
1 1/2 teaspoons
black mustard seeds
red pepper flakes
small onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
fat clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups
shelled English peas (or thawed frozen peas)
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the coconut and toast until many of the shreds turn brown. Stir frequently to prevent scorching, but don't be afraid to let the coconut lie still as it browns against the hot pan -- this is what makes it yummy. Remove from heat and cool.
Warm oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes, and cook until seeds sizzle, darken, and begin to pop. Add the onion, stir, and cook until very soft and beginning to brown.
Add garlic to the pan along with the English peas, turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add a splash or two of water to moisten the mixture a bit. Stir and cook until peas are barely tender, 3 to 5 minutes (add splashes of water as needed to keep things from burning or sticking to the pan). If your peas are small and very fresh, they won't need much added water, and they will cook on the quicker side. Larger, older ones may need more water and longer cooking time. Just before the peas are done cooking, add the snap peas, stir, and cook for one more minute. If you're using frozen peas, you can add both varieties of peas at the same time, and cook for barely two minutes, without water if the frozen peas are a little wet.
Add spinach, turn off the heat, and stir the mixture until the leaves wilt completely. Stir in coconut and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Add more salt as needed, to taste.