Sunday, 19 September 2010

Rice and peas

Another busy weekend full of culinary delights. Yesterday we went to a friend’s engagement party, with a buffet that literally had something for everyone. Although a lover of the buffet, they do play havoc with my self control and before I knew it I had made three visits to the table, had one too many potato croquettes and then desert appeared. What a spread!
Today my culinary exploits have been a little more restrained, with not a muffin in sight. I even managed to resist the gorgeously gooey looking cake on offer at Artisan Roast, and opted merely for a soya latte, which accompanied me on my walk through Stockbridge and the New Town.
Upon coming home to a cold flat and in desperate need of something warm and filling, I turned to one of my favourites for our evening meal, the mighty risotto. I fell in love with risotto whilst living in Verona, although I must confess my first experience of cooking it turned out to be more of a rice soup than a bowl of creamy meaty rice. Now, after years of practise I can confidently say that I have mastered cooking with the thirsty grain. I am patient enough to understand it is not a dish that can be rustled up in ten minutes, but something that needs a little more time and attention.  
The beauty of risotto lies in its versatility. It is a grain of rice that is open to any number of ingredients and flavour combinations. But in our household, the firm favourite is risotto with pancetta and peas,  or to put it a little more eloquently, risotto con pancetta e piselli. Here’s what you need to make enough for four generous portions:
300g of Arborio rice
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
75g of pancetta, cut into cubes
1.5 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
1 small glass of white wine
2 tbsp of olive oil
100g of peas
30g of parmesan, grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper to season
1.   Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy based pan. Add the onion, garlic and pancetta and sautĂ© until the onion has softened.

2.   Turn up the heat,  add the rice and the second tbsp of olive oil to the pan, stirring constantly to ensure that each grain of rice becomes coated in the oil.  Then add the wine and stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

3.   Start by adding a ladle of stock to the rice, and turn down the heat to a simmer as you don’t want to cook the outside of the rice too quickly. I always keep my stock warm on the stove as I feel it makes for a much better risotto. Continue adding the stock ladle by ladle, always waiting for the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. After roughly ten minutes, add the peas.

4.   Around 15 minutes into your cooking time, taste the risotto to check if it’s cooked. If it still needs more cooking time, continue to add stock until the rice is soft.

5.   When the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and add the parmesan, stirring it through the rice. Place a lid on the pan and allow the risotto to sit for two minutes. This is the final stage in helping the risotto achieve its wonderful creaminess. Finally, season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Never have I made this dish without someone asking for seconds. I hope this has the same effect on your friends and family too!


  1. Ooh I make this exact dish but with chicken - pancetta would be much nicer for a smokier flavour. But adding a glass of wine is problematic. If you'd opened the bottle for it you'd simply have to drink the rest? How will I cope?

  2. That is one of the many reasons why I make this dish. It is the perfect excuse for polishing off a bottle of wine!