24 August 2013

Risi E Bisi


Finally I managed to locate the peas in our PYO farm. They were well hidden among a lot of very large weeds, I had to ask for directions, no way I would have found them on my own. But I managed to pick what I hoped was 2 kg in order to try out a recipe from my book Polpo. I've mentioned it before, back in January, when I ended up doing something different, but it never left the back of my mind and today I finally got the fresh peas in their pods as the recipe demands.

I also got some lovely pancetta lardons from our butcher,who kindly sliced it thinly for me.

Thus, back home from harvesting, I washed all the pea pods as some had managed to get a bit muddy. I pretty much filled the sink with them and it took a while to give each one a scrub.

Then I drained them and made myself comfortable in front of the TV with a couple of large bowls - one for the peas and an even larger one for the pods. It's quite fiddly and as the PYO is organic, I had to keep an eye on the opened pods - I had a few that came with "live protein" so to speak. Took time to get all the peas shelled too and they filled up my 6 litre pressure cooker:


The book also mentions that one should buy about 20% more than needed, as one invariably would be tempted to eat some of the raw peas. I tried a couple - one small one, which was very tasty and one larger one, which wasn't as nice, there was a floury taste and feel to it. I guess I should have gone for the slightly under-ripe ones.


Anyway here goes what I did:

1.7 - 2 kg fresh peas in their pods
2.5 l water
2 large onions
50 ml olive oil
60 g butter
150 g pancetta
400 g risotto rice, carnaroli is recommended
salt and pepper
1 handful of chopped fresh mint leaves
1 handful of chopped frozen parsley


  1. Wash and shell the peas, saving the pods.
  2. Set the peas aside. Bring the water to boil in a large pot. Peel the onions, cut one of them in half and finely chop the other one.
  3. Once the water boils, add the saved pea pods and the halved onion. Bring to the boil and let simmer for 2 minutes, then discard the pea pods and onions. Sieve the liquid and it's ready to use for the risotto.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat up the olive oil and half of the butter on low heat, then sweat the chopped onion on low heat until it begins to go translucent.
  5. Cut the pancetta into smallish pieces and add to the onions, frying for a further 3 - 4 minutes.
  6. Add the rice and stir well to get all the grains coated with the fat.
  7. Turn down the heat to low and start adding liquid to the rice mixture, a couple of ladle-fulls at a time, stiring constantly. Only add more liquid when the previous has been absorbed and the rice appears a little dry.
  8. Taste the readiness of the rice. Add the peas towards the end, season with salt and pepper and add half of the mint and half of the parsley and stir in well.
  9. The whole cooking takes about 30 minutes, it is crucial that it is cooked slowly, and constant stirring to allow the rice to release its starch.
  10. This particular risotto should also be runnier, so keep adding the liquid until all has been used up. When the rice is ready, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Stir in the remaining mint and parsley and serve.

I actually bought 250 g of pancetta, so the remainder I put on the rack of the grill pan and grilled for a few minutes, turning to get things crispy. It was all very tasty, but I'd forgotten to add salt and had added way too little pepper as well, so the risotto was creamy, but bland. The grilled pancetta was ever so tasty and worked nicely with the risotto, adding a little saltiness and crunch.

The book states that the above amounts are for 6 people. This is far from the truth, in fact, I suspect up to 10 people could happily eat this, and even more, if it is served as a side dish. And it looks like my risotto had more peas in it than the one on the photo in the book. So the recipe wasn't too precise it seems, but ever so tasty.

On the whole it was an interesting recipe to try and despite its easy appearance, it is quite time consuming and requires a good portion of a day, so not something to do on a whim. Using frozen chopped parsley was not a good idea, fresh is better and I think a little dill might be nice too.

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