About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Risi e Bisi
One of the favourite dishes at our place is risi e bisi, which I've been making for many years now. It's the Italian name for pea risotto, at least in my mind it was right up till the other day.

I shop at one of those greengrocers, that when things get a bit quiet, very kindly shell their peas, borlotti beans and a couple of other things, ready to buy and use. Convenient. Loving convenience so much, I have always used frozen peas for my pea risotto, except when someone has already shelled the fresh ones.

Frozen peas have long been considered the success story of frozen vegetables, but for those who know, there is nothing like the flavour and texture of freshly shelled peas, though frozen peas seem that little bit sweeter, perhaps because they go pretty much straight from the field to the freezer, whereas fresh peas linger a little longer before making the final journey to the kitchen.

As I rummaged between the okra and early new season broad beans, nestling next to the beans were a couple of punnets of pre shelled peas. Jackpot. Honestly, why does anyone bother to shop at supermarkets for their veggies when a well run greengrocer beats them for variety, service, freshness and price everytime? For those of you in Sydney, especially this one.

I didn't so much pick up the peas as they jumped into my basket, with nary a thought as to how they might be used. That's my thing...see something good, grab it and think later. Look out you sexy bunch of radicchio, you're coming home with me where I'm slowly going to dress you with my best olive oil, until you shine just so, then put you in a tart and lusty threesome with some lemon juice, yeah baby!

Huh hmm, back now.

It was when I got home and thinking about how to use my peas that it occurred to me that I had never used fresh ones in a risotto. Marcella Hazan in her The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking has a recipe that incorporates fresh peas along with some of their pods, but do you think I could find it leafing through the risotto chapter? There was actually a pretty good reason for that...it wasn't there! A quick index search revealed it to be in the soup category. It seems that somewhere down the track, I had mistakenly come to believe that risi e bisi was a risotto dish.

Hazan tells of the 25th April, that while all of Italy celebrates their liberation from Fascist and German rule, the Venetians also used to celebrate the birthday of St Mark, patron saint of the republic that lasted 1,000 years and in honour of him had the first taste of risi e bisi for the season, on this day.

It was actually very pleasing to discover that this was a soup, for it pretty much does away with all that stirring, which all risotto makers know is so time consuming. Bung it all in the pot and some twenty or so minutes later, a steaming hot, thick and hearty soup. Though having saved us all that stirring, Hazan advises using a couple of handfuls of the actual pea pods to sweeten the dish, which means a little skinning of the inner membrane. Maybe one day I'll try that...

No doubt she would tut-tut over my use of bought stock too.

Risi e Bisi
(serves 4)

50g butter
1 small onion finely diced
360g fresh peas
1 cup risotto rice, vialone nano is good
1.5l chicken stock
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
50g parmigiano-reggiano cheese freshly grated

Put the butter and onion into a large pot and gently sweat the onion until very soft, then add the peas and a pinch of salt to retain their colour. Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, stirring well. Add the rice and stock, bring to the boil and cook at a steady simmer until the rice is done to your liking, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the parsley and Parmesan, then check the seasoning. Serve.

Note: I didn't measure anything except the peas, so the quantities aren't exact, it might need more or less stock. The idea is to end up with a soup that is quite thick but runny enough to need a spoon to eat it.
  posted at 10:20 am

At 1:50 pm, Blogger Thermomixer said...

I like pancetta with mine, but that's probably not ridgey-didge.
Check the side of the vialone nano rice - if it is Ferron - like from Enoteca S then there will be a no-stir risotto recipe. No stirring again.

At 2:26 pm, Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Soup? I never think of this as soup, so perhaps I just need to add a bit more liquid! Now I need to find a market that shells peas....

At 7:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this style risotto as do my kids although I'm with Thermomixer re the pancetta! Thanks Neil I know what is for dinner :)

At 8:08 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi thermomixer, you're pancetta addition sounds divine, I think it would work well with a broad bean version too. Have to say though, my favourite risottos are mostly single ingredient ones.

Hi lydia, it was a real revelation to me too, I always called it a risotto. Hope you find a friendly greengrocer...

Hi cam, my pleasure, hope it turned out well. At least you don't have to stir!

At 8:13 pm, Blogger Vida said...

Neil, any luck with the Chanterelles? I typed in "atmytable.blogspot.com" and got some sex addict blogger thing... big shock!!! V x

At 4:10 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL! The peas jumped into your basket? Love it! Love your recipe, too.


At 8:39 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi vida, yep, got them yesterday. You've discoverd my other life, blonde wig, short dress...sometimes food porn just isn't enough!

Hi paz, oh yeah, they did! Gotta love a risotto, oops, soup, where you don't have to stir.

At 10:48 am, Blogger Vida said...

Neil, I got quite a shock!!! I just did not recognise you!! V x

At 5:53 am, Blogger Katie Zeller said...

Already shelled fresh peas??? You are one lucky guy!
I didn't know Risi e Bisi was considered soup, either. But, then I don't stir my risotto constantly... What kind of an Italian am I!!!

At 7:35 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

My dream is peas like these! And to think they jumped in your basket.

At 2:40 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi katiez, jumped they did! I'm a secret non stirrer too, even for polenta, I'd make a crap Italian.

Hi tanna, a very good dream that is too!

At 12:02 am, Blogger Jeanne said...

I want your greengrocer... And don't feel alone - I always pictured risi e bisi as a risotto style dish too!

At 8:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your recipe sounds great! Thanks for the tip about the grocer, too. I reckon you've got the right idea.

Small grocers are so much cheaper, and the produce is much fresher. Not to mention we should support small business as much as we can. I mean, why not when they can't be beaten on variety?


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