The two weeks of Passiontide begins with Carling Sunday and lead up to Easter. During this time the Church begins its meditation on the sufferings of Christ.

The tradition of eating carlings (originally the name for dried grey peas) is hidden in the mists of time. It appears to date back many centuries. One story goes that it was on this day that a ship laden with carlings docked in the port of Newcastle during a time of famine. The load brought relief to the starving. However, no evidence can be found that this actually occurred. But the tradition of eating carlings, pea cakes fried in butter, does still go on in some parts of Northumberland. Other traditions include roasting peas and eating them at the top of a hill on this day.

Pea dishes were an important source of protein in the meatless Lent diet. Many people believed that if they ate peas before Lent they would be breaking the rules of the church and choke on them.

On trying out this recipe I found that dried peas have gone hi-tech. Having not come across a dried pea since the days when I was still small enough to walk under the kitchen table rather than crack my head open on it. I was surprised to find that instead of having to soak the dried pea overnight, it now only takes 2 hours. The early recipes for carlings said that the peas would then need to be boiled for 2 hours until they became soft and mushy. Well, with the new style dried peas you need only simmer for 30 minutes to reach the required mushiness.

Ingredients - makes 8 cakes

8oz (225g) dried green peas ½ teaspoon mixed herbs
2oz (50g) fresh breadcrumbs Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion, finely chopped 1oz (25g) butter


  1. Soak the peas as per instruction on the packet.
  2. Drain and rinse well.
  3. Put into a large saucepan with the amount of water recommended on the packet.
  4. Bring to the boil then simmer steadily for 30 mins or until the peas are tender.
  5. Drain and leave to cool.
  6. Mix in the breadcrumbs, onion, herbs and seasoning to make a stiff mixture.
  7. Shape into cakes and fry in the butter until brown, turning once.

My Official Taster and I thoroughly enjoyed these treats. Their taste and texture brought back memories of rissoles to us. Do people still eat rissoles? These carlings are delicious on their own but could be used as an alternative to hash browns for those naughty full English breakfasts.


Dried Peas