Pea Risotto

When it’s made properly, risotto is one of the wonders of the World. It;’s one of my favourite things to eat – and one of the simplest things to cook. However, don’t let the simplicity of risotto trick you into thinking it’s fail proof – so many people get lazy when they make it, by either not stirring it enough or not taking care to get the right consistency. The best risottos should not be left alone – they should be stirred continuously and at the end be like creamy soup – served very simply. This pea risotto is out of this world it’s about the 5th time I’ve made it – yet it only now makes an appearance on the blog. This is due to me not being able to even wait the time it takes to snap a quick picture before stuffing it into my mouth. I serve mine with salty pancetta as a garnish, but obviously if you’re vegetarian this dish could be ideal for you by ommiting that and switching the chicken stock to vegetable. It’s one of the top dishes of the year so far.

For the pea puree:
2 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 level teaspoon ground fennel
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the risotto:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 thickish slices pancetta
1 onion (finely diced)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 litres good quality chicken stock
1 cup cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter (cubed)
salt & pepper

Heat a saucepan with water until boiling. Add the peas and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and tumble into a food processor. Add the cheese, fennel, olive oil and a little salt & pepper. Blend for about 4-5 minutes into a fine puree. Set aside.

In a small frying pan, fry the pancetta in the olive oil for 4-5 minutes until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Heat the chicken stock in a pan until just boiling – reduce the heat to low and keep hot on a back burner.

Heat the butter over a moderate heat in a large saucepan until bubbling. Add the onion and gently fry for 4-5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the mint and rice and stir for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and simmer for 1-2 minutes, stirring contstantly to burn off the alcohol and reduce the liquid.

Add two ladles of the stock and stir constantly till most of the liquid is gone. Repeat with a further two ladles of stock and repeat this process for about 8-10 minutes until the rice is almost done but still a little raw. Add the pea puree and a little more stock and stir, cooking for a further 2-3 minutes until the rice is cooked but still with a little bite. Remove from the heat then beat in the butter and 2/3 of the parmesan until creamy. If it’s a little thick – add a little more stock. It should be fairly creamy and runny. Season well with salt and pepper to your liking.

Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and crumble over some of the pancetta then sprinkle over extra parmesan and cracked black pepper. If you’re feeling super decadent a little truffle oil will lift the dish even more. If not, a little extra virgin olive oil will be just as good.

This is a hearty main course – or if you serve it sparingly enough, makes an excellent starter.

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