>I went up to the garden yesterday with a friend who hadn’t seen the summer house yet, so I’d scheduled an afternoon and evening of indulgence in order to give him the best possible impression.
Instead of the mediocre (at best) weather forecasted, it turned out to be a sunny and warm afternoon, and we even chose to retreat into the shade of the blood mirabelle tree in order to get out of the heat. That’s always a sign that it’s a nice day!
Anyway, for dinner I made a pea risotto with Serrano ham wrapped chicken filets, and I thought I’d share this with you.
First, grow your peas!
|(I’ve cheated a little and grown some previously…)
Pea Risotto (2 portions)
- 2 cups shelled peas (fresh or – if it must be – frozen)
- The pods from the peas (or if using frozen, another two cups of peas)
- Some chicken or vegetable stock (or a stock cube, or indeed just a roughly chopped onion)
- A few herbs – I like to use a tiny sprig of fresh thyme, but 2-3 sage leaves also works a treat. Just don’t over-do it, as the herbs can easily over-power the subtle pea taste.
- 1/2 litre of water
- 1 cup of risotto rice (arborio or similar)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 onion (or a handful of shallots if you have them)
- 1 lump of butter (for frying the onions, garlic and rice, so you decide how much a “lump” is…)
- 1/2 glass of white wine for the risotto, and 1 glass of white wine for the cook
- 1 cup grated hard cheese – I like to use pecorino (a hard Italian goat’s cheese), but obviously Parmesan or Grano Padano would be just as suitable
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
So we start with the peas :
Shell the peas and put them aside while dumping the shells in half a litre of water along with the thyme, stock (or just chopped onion). Turn up the hob to maximum and let the broth boil for 10 minutes, then turn it down to the lowest heat and simmer for two hours.
And yes, by the time the pea shells have cooked for a few hours they will look disgusting, a sort of brownish green. No worries; you won’t be eating those, but the both will have a nice subtle taste of peas, and that’s what matters. Strain the broth and pour it back into the saucepan and keep it on a low heat while you cook the risotto. Discard the shells.
Chop the onion/shallots and the garlic as finely as you feel like. No need to be too fuzzy, I think. Put the garlic and onion in another saucepan with the butter and gently turn up the heat to sauté them until clear. Then add the rice and stir until it’s evenly coated with the butter. Add half a glass of white wine to the pan and pour yourself a glass as well, as this is the point when you will be stuck at the cooker for the next twenty minutes… You might as well enjoy it, right?
For the next 10-15 minutes you need to stir the rice every few minutes, adding a ladle of broth whenever the risotto starts to thicken.
When the rice is nearly tender, add the peas and continue as above for another 5 minutes until the rice is completely cooked. Add as much cheese as you feel you can do without tainting your conscience (in my case that’s a LOT of cheese!) and stir it in. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper, but remember to be generous with the pepper…
Serve with some grated cheese on top and another grinding of black pepper.
In theory risotto ought to be served on its own as a starter, but I like to serve it as a main, so I normally break the protocol and serve some flesh on the side, in this case chicken filets wrapped in Serrano ham and pan fried. Oh, and if anybody is wondering, the glass at the top contained a lovely crémant de Bourgogne (Paul Delane – not very expensive, and nowhere near the price of Champagne) which went well with the dish, the bubbles undercutting the richness of the risotto rather nicely.
Mrs. Beeton’s Rhubarb Jam Recipe:
I mentioned at one time that I’d made some rhubarb-and-ginger jam after a recipe from Mrs. Beeton’s Every-day Cookery, and somebody asked for the recipe. Well, in Mrs. Beeton’s own words:
INGREDIENTS – To each lb. of rhubarb allow 1lb. of preserving sugar, 1/2 a
teaspoonful of ground ginger, and the finely grated rind of 1/2 a lemon.
METHOD – Remove the outer stringy parts of the rhubarb, cut it into short lengths and weigh it. Put it into a preserving-pan with sugar, ginger, and lemon rind in the above proportions, place the pan by the side of the fire, and let the contents come very slowly to boiling-point, stirring occasionally meanwhile. Boil until the jam sets quickly when tested on a cold plate. Pour it into pots, cover closely, and store.
TIME – From 1 to 1 1/2 hours, according to the age of the rhubarb.
The rhubarb jam is in the tall jar, whereas the shorter jar contains a strawberry-and-lemon jam of my own invention. (If you’ve made jam once, surely you can then start improvising, right?)
And let me tell you… The ginger packs a punch! To my taste buds, the rhubarb jam is not for breakfast use, but much more suited for afternoon tea. TEA, not coffee… Coffee clashes with the ginger in quite a bad way, I can tell you, whereas a cup of Earl Grey tea becomes even more perfect with a slice of toast with rhubarb-and-ginger jam. If you have rhubarb in your garden, give this a go! You will not (I hope and believe) regret it…
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