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Mushy peas are dried marrowfat peas which are first soaked overnight in water with bicarbonate soda/baking soda, then rinsed in fresh water and simmered with a little sugar and salt until they form a thick green lumpy soup. In Northern England and the Midlands they are a traditional accompaniment to fish and chips, although their appeal has spread and sometimes mint is used as a flavouring. All over Britain, but particularly 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 a part of traditional British cuisine. Mushy peas can also be bought in tins (cans in North America). They are also sometimes served in batter as a pea fritter.
In Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and parts of Lincolnshire, they 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.
Mushy peas have occasionally been referred to as "Yorkshire caviar".
A variant (particularly popular around Bolton, Bury and Preston, Lancashire) is "parched peas" – carlin peas (also known as maple peas, or black peas) are soaked and then boiled slowly for a long time; the peas are traditionally served with vinegar.
Norwich Market has a permanent stall devoted to mushy peas. The stall has primarily sold mushy peas - without any colouring - for the last 60 years every day except Sunday (market closed). It is known to be the oldest such stall in East Anglia.
In Nottingham, the Victoria Centre market had for years featured a mushy peas stall that went back to the original "central market", pre-dating the Victoria Centre itself. Hot peas were served there with shellfish, mint sauce, salt and vinegar, as well as pies and pasties. The stall closed in 2010; however, a new stall opened in the market in December 2012.
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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. Mushy peas present a particular problem since there is no alternative to tartrazine that gives it the bright green colour.[verification needed] Without the colourant the dish would be murky grey. Ministers have stated that they will pursue a ban through law if food manufacturers do not phase out the food colourings.
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- Elaine Lemm. Traditional Mushy Peas Recipe. About.com. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
- "48 hours in Bristol / Dining with the locals", Independent, 26 April 2008
- "Market mushy peas celebrate 60th". BBC News. 21 May 2009.
- Nottingham Mushy Peas!. Retrieved 23 September 2013
- Nottingham's mushy peas and mint sauce back on sale. BBC News Nottingham (5 December 2012). Retrieved 23 September 2013.
- To pea or not to pea: That is no question. Nottinghampost.com. Retrieved 23 September 2013
- Meikle, James (2008-04-10). "FSA calls for voluntary ban on artificial colourings". London: The Guardian.
- "UK: Ban on food additives 'supported by ministers'", Fresh Plaza, 17 November 2008