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Peas, tahini and za'atar - leftovers

"How can you take a few ingredients and turn them into magic?"

Oksana Richie/Instagram

This was going to be just one item in one of those multi-item posts that I do every now and then, on what to do with a leftover dip - and I will come to that. However, as usual it started to spin out of control and so now it's a bit more, beginning with a trip to the original dip - shown above - Peas, tahini and za'atar - it's called, from, yes you guessed it, the Ottolenghi crew - the OTK Shelf Love book.


I had made it as an offering for our lunch visit to some country friends. I said I would provide nibbles. But of course I made too much. Well, specifically I followed the recipe. I wasn't quite sure how many people would be there, and the recipe actually said it would serve 4-6 as part of a mezzo spread. I don't think so. I actually think it would feed many more unless this was part of a substantial first course of just two or three courses. 500g of frozen peas are involved. That's quite a lot of peas. Anyway I was left with just over half of what you see above. Some of which I left with my hostess, the rest of which I brought home. What to do with it? As I said I will come back to that.


First though, the dish itself. Well here is what the Instagram lady whose words grace the top of the page said after she had made it:


"How can you take a few ingredients and turn them into magic? This dish is pure magic when it comes to taste, when it comes to aesthetics, when it comes to simplicity. Green peas from the freezer has a blissful RDV ('rendezvous' for the digital language unaware (like me)) with parsley, mint, olive oil, tahini, lemon zest and juice, some zaatar, green onions and radishes. This is the dish you take a spoonful of and you go “whaaat?!” How can your blitzed peas taste so good. I didn’t quite have 40 g of parsley the recipe calls for so I have completed it with chives. There could have been 15 g of chives. I don’t think I have done anything wrong as it was so delicious ... I had a little bit leftover (a little bit) and I added it to the salad the next day, sort of like pesto. I strongly believe you can make this dish a day in advance as it tasted excellent and looked just as vibrant green. Appetizer, side dish, a healthy snack…what ever suits you!" Oksanarichie/Instagram


Various bloggers and magazines had also had a go at it, including a couple who simply lifted the recipe and claimed it as their own. Virtually all of them raved about it and below are a couple of their results. (I forgot to take a photo of mine, which I proudly say, looked not too different from the original - but that's the thing - it's very easy to make this look spectacular. It's that pink and green thing again.)

Coming as it does from the Shelf Love book, which was written in the days of COVID, not only does it use stuff you might have in your freezer - frozen peas - but it also was very forgiving in suggesting alternative ingredients:


"While fresh mint and peas is a classic combination, you can also add in other soft herbs. This is where you can kind of choose to put anything you want or anything that grows in your garden. Basil, cilantro, chives—all your soft herbs can actually go into this pea [mezze]. And the peas are gonna thank you for indulging them with all these wonderful herbs.” Ottolenghi


It's all really simple, and I'm pretty sure I also saw an even simpler version that used cumin instead of za'atar, but of course I can't find that now. Anyway it's lovely, although I'm not sure I think it's one of his top ten - I'd rate it a 3 1/2 star recipe I think, maybe 4. It certainly looked good.


Za'atar by the way - you don't have to buy it - it's equal quantities of sumac, dried thyme and sesame seeds. Some people toast the sesame seeds, some don't. And that's it - just mix them together. Of course if you are a real purist and near a Middle-Eastern shop you might be able to buy actual za'atar - the herb that is, and others have more complicated mixes, but what I have given you here is what most cooks seem to say. I cannot find an actual Ottolenghi recipe, but then he has his own blend that he sells, so why would he tell you how to make it?


And here's another aside. I watched a video of him making this dip and his tahini was creamy coloured and pourable. Mine was caramel coloured and more solid. Admittedly it has been lurking in the back of my cupboard for a while, but I'm sure it has always been the same colour, so I'm probably not using the best there is. Just what I can find. There is no Middle-Eastern emporium near here, and considering the popularity of Ottolenghi with middle-class ladies who live in areas like mine you would think the supermarkets would stock more of his ingredients. But I quibble because you can indeed get za'atar and also tahini. Maybe the health food shop would have a better choice.


Moving on. As I trawled around the pea, tahini, za'atar thing I found that he had another recipe which he calls Pea spread with feta, also much praised and copied by others. Oh and this is where I got the cumin notion from. However I also vaguely remember that I found other variations that somehow included ricotta. Also now lost. The feta is marinated, he describes it as smoky although there is no reference to smoking the cheese or buying smoked cheese. I think he just thinks feta is smoky. Is it? Or can you buy smoky marinated feta? This is what he says about it:


"Serve with marinated feta. You can go light on heat, salt and smokiness by pairing your pea spread with smoky marinated feta, which is feta that sits in an oil bath infused with garlic, lemon, bay leaves, and charred chili flakes. “It’s like feta on steroids, I’m gonna have that smokiness there and garlic and lemon and all those wonderful things in with the feta.” Ottolenghi


Anyway, by now I think you probably have a few ideas of your own about making a pea based dip. Maybe ricotta instead of tahini? Yoghurt? A different spice mix? And, of course, those different herbs ...


I was almost ready to leave the whole pea, za'atar thing when I came across his fritters, which is where I now see the feta/ricotta confusion comes in. The original dish is called Pea, za'atar and feta fritters, but there is ricotta in there too. And you know, it has to be said that you could probably use that leftover dip to make these somehow.

Like the original dip many people have had a go at these, and also raved as here:


"They are an actual delight and when eaten hot from the plate, with lemon squeezed over, and a glass of cold white wine to wash them down, like an actual civilized person who still holds the potential to entertain something like a sexy aperitivo hour, may even hold the power to transport you from your miserable existence into an alternate reality for a brief, tongue-singeing moment." Pea fritters/The Wednesday Chef


And their efforts look pretty good too. Nobody seemed to mess with these much either, although the shapes seem to vary somewhat.


So yes, fritters are just one of the suggestions I found for what to do with leftover pea dip. Well any dip really. I began with a blog site called A Little Bit which had a top ten of suggestions, including this rather wonderful looking puff pastry tart - an infinitely variable thing which I may well have a go at for my vegetarian dish of the week. However, I also found so many other things elsewhere, and decided in the end to just give a list, and leave it to you to extemporise if you ever find yourself in this position. What you do will obviously depend on how much you have and also what kind of dip it is - you would do something different with tzatziki for example. Or pesto - which is a kind of dip too. I'm also sure you can also think of other things. After all it's just another wonderful flavour to add to things isn't it? So here is a very long list to start from:


Pinwheels and other pastries - even muffins?

Sandwiches and burgers, and any other kind of thing that you could remotely call a sandwich.

Thinned down as a sauce for any number of things

Mixed in with rice or other pulses to make a salad, or a savoury accompaniment

On pizza instead of tomato sauce or thinned down and drizzled over the top

Bruschetta - plus whatever you fancy

Risotto - either as a swirl on top at the end or as part of the risotto liquid flavouring

Stuffed baked potatoes

Curry, soup or stew - just add as an extra flavour to your dish or swirl it prettily on top

Quesadilla - mix with grated cheese and other stuff, sandwich between two tortillas and fry until crisp and cheese has melted

A pasta sauce - well a dip is a kind of pesto really isn't it? Just thicker. So thin it down for a sauce with cream or the pasta water.

And whilst on pasta it could also be used with cheese and maybe some other vegetable like spinach as a filling for lasagne, cannelloni, rotolo - and now that I come to think of it - all those feta pastries too

Salad dressing - again thin it down with something, add extra flavour?

Use it, like pesto, as a crust for chicken, fish, well anything really - dip in your dip and finish with breadcrumbs. You might need egg or flour in there somewhere

Or simply use it as a marinade for all of the above.

Stuff your chicken under the skin, mix with something more substantial like rice as a stuffing for anything.

Mix it into a bread mix, scones, damper etc.


Frittata or a stuffing for omelettes if you are into stuffing omelettes

Quiche

Focaccia - either mixed in with the dough or thinned and drizzled over the top

Mixed into mashed potatoes - or other mashed vegetables.

Stir fries - just add somewhere along the line as you would a curry paste

Toss potatoes (or anything else) in it before roasting them - probably with a bit of extra olive oil.


The possibilities, as I say, are endless. I feel quite excited.


What I am going to do tonight is to make it into a pasta sauce along with the leftover piece of braised chicken breast that is also waiting to be used up somehow. That had carrots with it and should therefore go quite well with the pea dip, although the Middle-Eastern vibe might be a - shall we say interesting - mix. We'll see.

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