Garlicky Fried Rice with Peas and Bacon
Winter months are a good time to reach for frozen vegetables. Why pay $6.99 for a head of cauliflower shipped here from Texas when you can get a bag of peas for less than half of that?
Frozen vegetables are picked and processed at their peak freshness, thus retaining all their nutrient-dense goodness. Sure they make a handy dandy ice pack, but frozen peas are also a dependable delight for fixing fast and delicious weeknight dinners. They’re affordable, kid-friendly, and gosh darn it, so good for you, being a fantastic provider of fibre and other good things. And the best part—you don’t have to beg your kids to shell frozen peas.
Here’s a little fun fact about peas. This cool-season vegetable has been around for thousands of years, even showing up in ancient Egyptian tombs. If you’re a fan of Norse mythology, you may know that apparently a grumpy Thor sent flying dragons to drop peas into all of the Earth’s wells, thereby filling them up and spoiling the water. But some of the peas missed the wells and sprouted, giving people another food source. To appease (yes, I did just write that) Thor, the mortals ate the peas only on a Thursday, which was dedicated to him. If you’ve ever had a nasty, dried up, flavourless pea, you know that they can indeed be a weapon, so Thor really wasn’t too far off.
Like many of you, I always have a bag of frozen peas in the freezer. When I’m pressed for time and have nothing planned for dinner, I’ll crack open a box of organic macaroni and cheese and add the peas to the last few minutes of cooking time for the pasta. This way I feel like I’m having more of a complete meal and less like I’m living in a dorm room. Sometimes I get real fancy and add sundried tomatoes too!
Frozen peas are perfect for adding a pop of colour and nutrition to soups, stews, curries, and the like. You can also purée them into soups or blitz them into dips. Pasta and peas go hand-in-hand, so just toss them into a pot of hot, buttery noodles dressed with heaps of garlic and Parmesan - but one of my favourite ways to eat peas is in garlicky fried rice. Not only is this meal economical, it’s also a grand way to use up leftovers that may be lingering in the fridge.
First things first, the best fried rice is made with day-old rice. If you’re making rice to accompany a stew or a curry, just make extra for fried rice the next day. Not only does this mean that your fried rice will be ready in a manner of minutes, this cold rice ensures that the fried rice will have the perfect chewy-tender texture. Just be sure to fluff the hot rice with a fork once it’s cooked, and before storing it, so that the rice separates and doesn't solidify in one big block.
The add-ins to fried rice are endless. Carrots and onions add colour and flavour, but mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli, etc are all excellent too. Leftover bacon from breakfast went into this recipe, but any cooked chicken, beef, pork, or tofu would be tasty too. The great thing about fried rice is that it can be customized to what needs to be used up in your refrigerator. Just don’t forget the frozen peas!