Peas are a precious crop for me, I don't like to buy big bags of frozen peas like everyone seems to do in New Zealand (and other countries), it makes them feel 'cheap' and 'common' and an everyday boring side veggie.
I like my fresh peas and I like them to be the main player in a dish, like for risi e bisi, a traditional risotto dish from Veneto, Italy. And the best part of growing them? Is to keep the pods, and as I am a NO-FOOD-WASTE advocate, to use them to make stock, which will be the base of the risotto. So shell the peas and keep the pods, wash them well and place them in a pot with water (I used about 1.2 litres of water for a basket of peas) and rock salt and simmer for at least one hour. You can also add a little parsley or celery leaves to the stock, but not too much as they have very strong flavour. Filter the stock and keep hot. You can also cut the pods into tiny strips and add them to the risotto, but I just gave them to some hungry visiting chickens (big mistake, they are always around my house now!!).
To prepare the risotto chop an onion and saute with margarine or soy butter (olive oil ok but vegetable butter is better for this). Butter should still be bubbling when you add the rice (I used arborio). Stir until the rice is hot then add the peas.
Stir again and then start adding the stock, little by little. If you use a good casserole you can cover the risotto from time to time and let is absorb the liquid, otherwise keep stirring and adding stock until the risotto is ready.
Towards the end test for salt and add a little pepper if you like. Eat hot. Leftovers are good to make croquettes or arancini the day after.
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©