Pea and Mushroom Risotto

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

olive oil

unsalted butter



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.


Chicken Stew with Mushrooms and Tarragon

While the rest of the world is buying charcoal for barbecues, we here in Britain are battening down the hatches, putting on our summer woolens, and donning our widest brimmed sou’westers.  We’re also planning Wicker Man type parades and sacrifices to appease the weather gods as well as eating boatloads of stew.  Below is my favorite recipe of the moment.

The main flavor is that of tarragon.  An herb that to me, seems inherently French.  But apparently it’s not.  I’ve read and heard from several sources that it was brought to Europe by the Mongols, circa 13-something-or-other.  And I hope that’s true because I really love the image of Kublai Khan’s army crossing the Altai with tarragon plants to season their fish and poultry or maybe soothe their upset tummies in between looting and pillaging their way to Central Europe.  History is so much more colorful when imagined this way.


8 chicken thighs

10 rashers of bacon (smoked streaky), cut into pieces

1/2 cup flour

olive oil

2 onions, peeled and quartered

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 cup dry white wine (or dry sherry for a richer, sweeter sauce)

2 cups chicken stock

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream (double cream)

3 tablespoons creamy dijon mustard

1 container crimini mushrooms

a bunch of tarragon, chopped (just the leaves, no stems.  stems are bitter)

salt and pepper to taste


Dust the chicken with the flour, season with salt and pepper, and brown in a heavy saucepan.  Once you have done this, set the chicken aside.  Add a drop more oil to the pan and add the bacon, onions, and garlic.  Cook over medium-low heat until the onions separate and caramelize.  Then add the wine and let the mixture bubble.  Reduce until the liquid is half.  Now add the chicken stock, mustard, and the previously browned chicken thighs.  Simmer with the lid on for about 45 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook for another 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the stew.  Bring your sauce to a bubble and once again reduce.  Finally, add the cream and tarragon as well as return the chicken pieces back to the dish.  Warm through and serve with nice hearty bread or some new potatoes.