Braised Baby Gem, Pancetta, and Peas

I cannot get enough of this delicious dish from Ceri Jones’ It Starts with Veg: 100 Seasonal Suppers and Sides cookbook!

This delicious braised lettuce dish brings together baby gem lettuce, garden peas, chickpeas, pancetta, spring onions, chicken stock, creme fraiche and fresh herbs in an elegantly balanced way. Every mouthful contains a different subset of ingredients, making it an utter delight to eat. It’s also a dish that is warming and filling whilst also wonderfully summery!

Photograph of Ceri Jone's Braised Baby Gem, Pancetta and Peas

Cooked by Ceri, photography by Samantha Couzens (note that this image has been provided for promotion purposes and there are no photographs in the book itself)

Read our full review of It Starts with Veg by Ceri Jones.

Braised Baby Gem, Pancetta and Peas served in a bowl

Photo of home cooked dish by Kavita Favelle

Braised Baby Gem, Pancetta, and Peas

Cooked lettuce is best for days when the calendar says summer, but British weather is giving you damp autumn. A variation on a French-style recipe for braising lettuce with peas and sometimes bacon, which I once tried in a pub in, err, South East London. Just a little pancetta is used in this braise, most of the body comes from the lettuce, peas, and chickpeas. It’s a really good example of how meat can be used in small quantities to add depth of flavour but doesn’t distract from the vegetables. Serve with bread to mop up the juices, or with rib-sticking mashed potatoes for something more substantial. You can try substituting the gem lettuce for larger romaine, cos, or wedges of endive.
Servings 2
Author Ceri Jones


  • 100 g (3½ oz) diced pancetta
  • 2 little gem lettuce (approx. 100 g / 3½ oz each), sliced into quarters through the core
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 400 g (14 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 160 g (5¾ oz) frozen peas
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped herbs (e.g. tarragon, mint, or parsley, or a combination)
  • salt and pepper


  • Warm a lidded, deep, wide frying pan over a medium-high heat (no oil required) and cook the pancetta cubes for around 5 minutes, until browned. Remove using a slotted spoon and leave the fat in the pan. Cook the gem lettuce wedges in the pancetta fat, cut-side down for around 90 seconds on each flat side, until just starting to char. Use tongs to lift out of the pan, and set aside.
  • Lower the heat, and the pancetta back into the pan, along with the spring onions and soften for a minute or so. Next add the chickpeas, frozen peas and chicken stock, then nestle the charred lettuce back in, cut side up. Bring to a bubble, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for around 10 minutes, or until a knife glides easily through the stalk of the thickest wedge of lettuce. Remove the lid, and if the stock needs reducing, cook uncovered for a few minutes more. Dollop in the crème fraîche, and gently shake the pan to dissolve it into the sauce. Add the chopped herbs and season to taste – it may already be salty enough because of the pancetta, but you can afford to be liberal with the pepper.

This is such a lovely spring or summer dish to make when lettuce, peas and green herbs are all abundant. The addition of chickpeas makes the dish comforting and filling, and the pancetta adds pops of salty, meaty flavour. Chicken stock and creme fraiche create a flavourful broth that is best mopped up with wedges of good fresh bread.

Braised Baby Gem, Pancetta and Peas in the cooking pan Braised Baby Gem, Pancetta and Peas in the cooking pan
Photography by Kavita Favelle

Kavey Eats received a review copy of It Starts with Veg: 100 Seasonal Suppers and Sides by Ceri Jones from publishers Pavilion. Promotional photograph by Samantha Couzens (not from the book). Home cooking photos by Kavita Favelle.

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