Mushy peas

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A British meal of fish and chips served with mushy peas in the ramekin on the right

Mushy peas are dried marrowfat peas which are first soaked overnight in water with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda),[1] then rinsed in fresh water and simmered with a little sugar and salt until they form a thick green lumpy mash. Sometimes mint is used as a flavouring. Throughout the British Isles (in particular Northern England and the Midlands) they are a traditional accompaniment to fish and chips. In Northern England they are commonly served as part of the popular snack of pie and peas (akin to the South Australian pie floater, but with mushy peas instead of a thick pea soup) and are considered to be a part of traditional British cuisine. Mushy peas can also be bought ready prepared in tin cans. They are sometimes also packed into a ball, deep-fried in batter, and served as a pea fritter.[2]

Local variants[edit]

In Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and parts of Lincolnshire, mushy peas are often served as a snack on their own. In Nottinghamshire they are traditionally accompanied by mint sauce, and sold at open-air events such as fairs or fêtes. In Nottinghamshire, mushy peas served with chips is called a 'pea mix'. Mushy peas are also popular in Scotland served with fish and chips or as a wetter version with vinegar in a bowl.

A variant (particularly popular around Bolton, Bury, and Preston, Lancashire) is "parched peas" – carlin peas (also known as maple peas, or black peas) soaked and then boiled slowly for a long time; these peas are traditionally served with vinegar.

Mushy peas have occasionally been referred to as "Yorkshire caviar".[3]

Artificial colouring[edit]

Green colouring is often used to colour mushy peas. It is typically achieved by adding the yellow and blue additives, Tartrazine (E102) and Brilliant Blue FCF (E133), which together produce the green effect. The use of artificial colours results in bright green mushy peas. Pure mushy peas, with no colouring, tend to form a more grey-green end product. Sodium bicarbonate (E500) is often added to soften the peas to enhance the colour and to inhibit fermentation during soaking, which reduces later flatulence in consuming said foods. The British Food Standards Agency, on 28 April 2008, asked for a voluntary ban on artificial food colourings and suggested that the ban would be practical by the end of 2009. This would mean that certain foods, including mushy peas, would need to be free of the additive, otherwise the item might be removed from sale.[4] Ministers have stated that they will pursue a ban through law if food manufacturers do not phase out the food colourings.[5] As of 2018, the ban is yet to come into effect.[6]

Mushy peas present a particular problem since replacing tartrazine proved challenging. While natural alternatives do exist - most notably beta-carotene, which is the natural orange pigment found in carrots and curcumin, which is extracted from turmeric - they do not result in colours as strong nor as vibrant, which is why manufacturers prefer to use tartrazine if possible.[7] Without the colourant the dish would be murky grey. In July 2010 an EU directive required the warning label "May have effects on activity and attention in children" to be applied to foods containing tartrazine.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elaine Lemm. Traditional Mushy Peas Recipe. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  2. ^ "Pea fritter". Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  3. ^ "48 hours in Bristol / Dining with the locals", Independent, 26 April 2008
  4. ^ Meikle, James (2008-04-10). "FSA calls for voluntary ban on artificial colourings". London: The Guardian.
  5. ^ "UK: Ban on food additives 'supported by ministers'", Fresh Plaza, 17 November 2008
  6. ^ "Food additives". Food Standards Agency. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  7. ^ "Tartrazine- Molecule of the Month - May 2018 (HTML version)". Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  8. ^ "The Kitchen Thinker: Food colourings". The Telegraph. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2018.