Grass peas are pulses similar to chickpeas, but with a sweeter flavour, more like peas. For centuries they been a part of the traditional food of the poor peasant communities in Central and Southern Italy.
Ingredients (serves 4) :
250 g grass peas (“cicerchie”)
5/6 small tomatoes
1 clove garlic
extra virgin olive oil
To serve: crust of Altamura Dop bread
Soak the grass peas in water to soften and then boil in slightly salted water for about 2 hours. Heat 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and gently fry the garlic with the chopped mint and parsley, the diced tomatoes and the chilli until soft. Add the grass peas, a pinch of salt and several spoonfuls of boiling water, and continue cooking. Mash a quarter of the grass peas and add them to the pan to thicken the soup. Toast 4 slices of Altamura Dop bread and spoon the soup onto each slice. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Grass peas originated in the Middle East, perhaps in Egypt. The Ancient Greeks and Romans ate them and were followed by many generations of Italian peasants, who cooked grass peas when food was scarce: they boiled the pulses, sautéed them in a pan with garlic and chilli and then mashed them. For a long time, the word grass pea was synonymous with poverty, and this is a reason why this pulse went out of use – it was abandoned like a bad memory. Grass peas were also difficult to grow and even more difficult to harvest. This glorious pulse was forgotten, until it came back into fashion thanks to the new interest in growing and eating humble but nutritious foods. Now even the grass pea has regained its place of honour among beans, chickpeas and lentils.