Mushy peas are a very traditional dish in the UK, appearing as a side dish, a late night snack, a popular choice at food stands, and even as a base for other foods. They are made with dried green peas. These need to be soaked overnight, and then they are cooked down until they resemble a somewhat lumpy porridge. Often mushy pea recipes call for salt and sugar during the cooking process, and many recipes add baking soda, since this dish can cause some people a little stomach discomfort. Most also utilize mint as a flavoring.
Very green mushy peas tend to have green food coloring added. Less processed ones may be a lighter green or even gray in color. Many like a vivid green, so they resort to food coloring to produce verdant shades. As a side dish, you’ll see this dish served with different types of pub grub, particularly fish and chips, and pasties.
In different regions of England, mushy peas may form the base for other foods. For instance, residents of Northwest England may serve them with fried eggs on top. Some parts of England pride themselves on mushy pea fritters. The cooked down peas are added to batter and fried to a crisp. You also might see very thick pea porridge spread on toast.
There are a couple or recipes that substitute black peas for the more traditional marrowfat peas. This substitution is most popular in Lancashire, and black or parched mushy peas are usually eaten with salt and vinegar, very much like fish and chips are eaten. Regular mushy pea recipes usually add butter, and salt and pepper instead of vinegar and salt for seasoning.
Marrowfat peas can be a bit challenging to find in the US, though you can buy imports on the Internet. You can even buy canned mushy peas from either international grocery stores or on the Internet if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making them yourself. Since they’re not a common vegetable side dish in the US, it might be worth giving these a try, particularly if you’re serving something traditionally British like fish and chips.