It would be hard to find a dish that shouts ‘spring’ louder than this one. Fresh green sweet peas straight from the garden are combined with the creamy richness of a risotto - the perfect springtime comfort food! The variety of pea I chose for this dish was Feltham First, which is a long-standing British favourite. It's a low-growing, early variety that produces lovely sweet - but not too sweet - peas. It is vital that you blanch your pea pods in boiling water at the start because this will remove all the bitterness, leaving a beautiful clean pea flavour.
For the pea stock (makes 600ml)
fresh pea pods, shelled (use the shells for the stock and the peas for the purée and vegetables)
For the pea purée
fresh peas (shelled weight)
For the risotto
white onion, diced
refined olive oil or 30g unsalted butter
garlic, finely grated
white wine, plus extra to finish (optional)
freshly grated Parmesan
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the vegetables
baby courgettes, cut into 2mm slices
fresh peas (podded weight)
French breakfast radish, sliced
baby leaf spinach
juice of ¼ lemon
extra virgin olive oil or 50g unsalted butter
To garnish (optional)
Start by making the pea stock.
In a large pan of simmering water, blanch the pea pod shells for 1 minute.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the blanched shells and refresh them in the iced water. (By refreshing the pods in the iced water, you not only retain the colour but also the freshness and maximise the retention of vitamins and nutrients.)
Once cooled, blitz the iced water and blanched pea pods in a food processor until smooth and strain through a fine sieve.
Set aside 100ml to make the pea purée and the remaining 500ml to make the risotto.
Next, make the pea purée.
In a small saucepan on a medium heat, sweat the peas in the butter for 5 minutes, adding a pinch of salt.
Add the 100ml of reserved pea stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 4 minutes.
Transfer to a blender or food processor, then blend until smooth and leave to cool.
Now make the risotto.
In a medium saucepan on a low heat, sweat the onion in the olive oil with a pinch of salt for 2 minutes, until translucent.
Add the garlic.
Stir in the rice and continue to cook on a low heat for 3 minutes, until the grains of rice appear shiny (this will give flavour and prevent them from sticking together).
Pour in the white wine, then the 500ml of reserved pea stock, stir and bring to the gentlest simmer with only one bubble breaking the surface every minute.
Season with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and leave to cook for 20 minutes. Check occasionally that it's not boiling.
After 20 minutes of cooking, pick up a grain of rice. You will see a tiny speck of white starch in the middle – this means the risotto is nearly cooked.
Now you need to add the creaminess that we love so much in a risotto, and that means 5 minutes of hard and fast stirring. By beating the rice, each grain will rub against another, which will extract the starch and give the rice its beautifully creamy consistency.
Stir in 200ml of the cooled pea purée, which will revive the colour and add freshness.
Stir in the Parmesan, taste and correct the seasoning. Set aside.
In a small saucepan on a high heat, bring the butter, 50ml of water and a pinch of salt to the boil. Add the courgettes, cover with a lid and cook on a high heat for 30 seconds, then add the peas, radishes, radish tops and spinach.
Cover again and continue for 20 seconds.
To finish the risotto, stir in the lemon juice, olive oil or butter and maybe a dash of white wine to sharpen the flavour. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
You can serve the risotto in a large dish topped with the vegetables, blanched pea shoots and a few shavings of Parmesan, if using, or in four large bowls.
"I developed this technique of cooking a risotto as a means of saving time. I hated watching my chefs spend so long stirring the rice. My method requires less time and effort but every grain of rice is perfectly cooked. Those last 5 minutes are crucial. By stirring, you work the starch and extract it, which is what gives the risotto its hallmark creaminess."
This recipe is adapted from the book Kew on a Plate
Accompanying a very special BBC TV series Raymond filmed with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, this is the story of the nation's favourite fruit and veg. You’ll find an array of mouth-watering seasonal recipes, detailed tasting notes, and valuable tips for growing your own produce from the talented gardeners of Kew. A perfect read for the green fingered gastronome.