Today, the Sunday before Palm Sunday, is Carlin Sunday and on it we traditionally eat Carlin Peas. As far as I can tell it's a peculiarity of the North, and even then it may not be the whole of the North - in fact even around here few people still eat Carlins. I was introduced to them many many moons ago by my Aunty who was an excellent cook and baker and followed many traditional "geordie" recipes. I'm going to do a blog some day just about her, she deserves one as she's a very special aunty.
Carlins are really Maple Peas, and other names for them are Black Peas, Brown Badgers and Pigeon Peas. The latter is most common around here and comes from the fact they're used as pigeon food. If you can't find them at a deli or health food shop, you can often find them at a pet shop (I'm not sure if they're food grade there though!).
You prepare Carlins by soaking them overnight and then boiling them for up to an hour - it's a matter of taste as to how soft you like your peas (they are tough little things and it's difficult to over-boil them). Then you fry them in a little butter for a few minutes, then add some salt and a good dose of vinegar to the pan, coughing madly as the vinegar evaporates.
Serve however you like - we have them as the "meat" of a Sunday Dinner, but it was traditional to eat them out of a paper cone in the style of chips, you could buy them like this in shops and pubs. Some places still sell them this way, such as Ken Bentley's of Driffield.
It would be a shame if Carlins died out even more so than they seem to now. They're far and away my favourite bean/pea - I could sit and eat a whole plate of them with no accompaniment. It's pretty tricky to get Carlins all year round, they seem to appear in time for Carlin Sunday and then they're gone again. It's a shame, they're great any time of year.
Support your local Carlin!