I love garden peas and presently it’s their moment. I love the way they squeak between my fingers after I’ve washed them. Each time I split open a waxy shiny pod, I feel like I’m discovering treasure. Theirs is also, in my opinion, the most soothing shade of pale green.
While I love to eat them in a salad, I really enjoy them in a rich mushroomy risotto. Spring peas have such a sweet, clean, bright taste, they lift the flavour of what can be an otherwise heavy earthy dish. It’s the perfect counterbalance that brings sunshine to the forest floor.
Below is my recipe. Feel free to swap the rice for farro which is actually what I intended to use, but didn’t have enough of for last night’s supper. The nuttiness is delicious, but either way it’s a tasty dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do listening to The Three Tenors.
150 g garden peas, shelled
150 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
50 g dried porcini mushrooms
750 ml chicken stock
250 ml boiling water
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c Carnaroli rice or farro
1/2 c dry Oloroso sherry (or a light dry white wine if you don’t want such a rich taste)
a bunch of thyme, chopped
flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the boiling water. I place mine in a large mug and cover them with a plate. Leave them for at least 30 minutes to fully rehydrate.
Blanche the peas in salted water for 3 minutes. Rinse them under cold water to stop their cooking and to keep their color. Drain them and set them aside.
Heat some olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Saute the sliced chestnut mushrooms. When they are almost done, add a tablespoon of chopped thyme. Set them aside.
Drain the porcini mushrooms, but save the liquid. Put this mushroom liquor into a small saucepan with the chicken stock. Simmer on low.
Add a bit more olive oil and butter to the saucepan to saute the onion. When the onion becomes translucent, add the minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme.
Add the 1 1/2 cups of rice or farro to the onion. Allow it to toast for a few minutes, before pouring over the sherry. Stir to avoid sticking. When the liquid has evaporated, add a ladleful of stock. Stir and cook until the liquid disappears. Repeat this until the stock has been used up and the risotto is ready. If you need more liquid, use dry white wine.
When the risotto is finished, take it off the heat. Season to taste. Then stir in the mushrooms, peas, cheese and a tablespoon of parsley. Pour yourself a glass of your favourite wine and you’re all set for supper.