Risi e Bici
Out in Western Mass, the pea shoots are just popping out and it’s time for peas in a pod. The season lasts about three weeks and it evokes memories of my childhood sitting on the steps of the caravan, shucking peas so that mum could overcook them for dinner!
There is a delicacy in Italy at this time of year called “Risi e Bic,i” a speciality of the Veneto region but cooked all over Italy. It’s a celebration of the peas (world peas! Peas to the world!) and it is a totally fantastic dish, dead easy to prepare. But you have to follow a slightly alternative road from the risotto.
First the broth – you have to use every part of the pea growing process – the pea shoots, the pea pods, add some fresh early spring garlic and a little onion which will form the broth that make the risotto. Prepare the risotto as you would any risotto: finely chopped onion, coat the rice with olive oil, add a dash of white wine and then begin the process of moving the rice around for about 20 minutes, constantly adding the delicious stock. At about 5 minutes to go throw in the peas, working them around the rice; chop in a few more pea shoots and throw those in and keep adding the stock.
Here’s the difference between a typical risotto and the risi e bici. You want it slightly soupier, when the rice feels good and there’s enough liquid to literally spoon a little bit out, that’s when you chop some fresh early mint, sprinkle that across the dish and finish it with some freshly grated reggiano parmegiano, shouting “Peas on Earth.” for the added effect. I ‘m not saying this is good. It’s beyond good. And it takes 20 minutes, and costs next to nothing. Frozen peas can be substituted but this is the time of the year when you have to use the real deal. It’s easy peasy.