GREY PEAS IN CREAM SAUCE WITH BACON AND ONIONS; PELĒKIE ZIRŅI, LATVIA, Baltic States
Dried Pelēkie Zirņi (Grey Peas) – 500 grams (17.6 ounces)
European Smoked Bacon – 500 grams (17.6 ounces)
Onion – 1 large size
Sour Cream – 200 grams (7 ounces)
Water – 1500ml for soaking peas + 1 cup (236ml) for the sauce + water for boiling
Freshly Ground Black Pepper – 2 teaspoons
Sea Salt – 1 teaspoon
Fresh Parsley – a few sprigs
Pelēkie Zirņi (Grey Peas) – The legumes, grains, potatoes, meat, fish, wild mushrooms and forest berries are essential ingredients in the Latvian cuisine. Pelēkie Zirņi (Grey Peas), a Latvian specialty, are grey-brown peas served boiled with fried bacon and onions. Pelēkie Zirņi (Grey Peas), cultivated in Latvia for centuries, are included on the European Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) list. Retrija, the variety of pea plant, has pink-violet flowers that blossom into pea pods. Pelēkie Zirņi, also known as marrowfat peas, are left on the vine to dry, creating large grey-brown peas with a floury texture and a distinct flavor. In our recipe, we use Kapucijners, a Dutch variety of grey peas available in the USA at Marina Market in Poulsbo, WA (marinamarket.com) or other online European grocery markets. Our recipe memorizes the Pelēkie Zirņi we degusted at a restaurant in the Old Town of Riga, the capital city of Latvia. We serve boiled grey peas with a cream sauce flavored with bacon and onions. Pelēkie Zirņi is a hearty dish with an unforgettable flavor.
Step 1 – In a large bowl, soak the dry peas in 1500 ml of water overnight (10-12 hours). The next day, rinse the peas in cold water, add fresh water to the Dutch oven and boil the peas for one hour on low-medium heat until the peas become tender.
Step 2 – In the meantime prepare the sauce. Cut the bacon into ½ inch size cubes and cube the onions. In the frying pan, sauté the bacon for around 5 minutes on medium heat until the bacon becomes slightly crispy, then add the onions and sauté for a few more minutes. Add the sour cream, 1 cup of water, black pepper and sea salt, and mix thoroughly.
Step 3 – Place the sauce in shallow bowls. Drain the boiled peas and place a few scoops of the peas in the middle of the bowls. Sprinkle the Pelēkie Zirņi (Grey Beans) with finely chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Step 4 – Enjoy a hearty Latvian dish!
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