Risi e bisi

December 15, 2009

Week 3 of Madhur Jaffrey, and we move on to Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. This is one of the most battered and obviously loved books in my collection. I was given it as a Christmas gift about 5 years ago; way back then I’d probably never bought a cookery book and the few that I owned had been handed down by my dad when I went off to university, blithely unable to cook anything but macaroni cheese. Even though my shelves are now heaving with (too) many more books, this is probably still the one I’d pick to save from a burning building. Y’know, if I had to.

Despite the fact that I’m not a vegetarian anymore, I think I could be quite content living only off the recipes in this book (well, I might have to go to cafes for cake sometimes). There are a lot of them, for a start – this is a big book with no pictures or food philosophy mission statements, just reams and reams of information on how to prepare, cook and store all types of food except meat, and that last bit of the sentence isn’t meant to be flippant, because it really does (to me) make meat seem a bit superfluous.

I’m craving simple food at the moment – Christmas baking is providing enough over-ambition without it spilling into our mealtimes as well – so last night we had a chickpea, potato and carrot stew which did exactly what it said on the tin, and tonight this simple risotto, as risottos should be, I believe. Incidentally risotto was one of the things that followed swiftly after macaroni cheese and will always occupy the same comfort food territory for me. Plus, I just like saying the name ‘risi e bisi’.  

Risi e bisi (risotto with peas) Serves 4, if you’re Madhur Jaffrey, 2 if you’re us

Ideally this should be made with fresh peas, but I think it’s also perfect store cupboard food, assuming you keep risotto rice in your cupboard and peas in your freezer. Nice and frugal when you’ve spent all your money on Christmas gifts (or mammoth amounts of nuts and butter for Christmas baking).

1 litre light vegetable stock, seasoned (I use the Marigold bouillon stuff)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
250g frozen peas (or fresh, should you happen to have some)
200g risotto rice
45g parmesan, grated
15g butter (a large knob)
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley (optional – I didn’t have any)

Keep the stock hot in a pan over your lowest heat.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the onion for a minute (you’re asked to add the peas here too, but I didn’t want them to shrivel so added them at the end instead). Add the rice, stirring and frying for another minute. Pour in a generous ladleful of stock. Keep stirring the rice until all the stock has been absorbed. Keep adding stock one ladleful at a time, stirring, until all the stock has been used up. The rice should be just cooked (this will take about 25 minutes).

Add the peas and cook until the last of the stock is absorbed. Now, add the cheese and butter and stir in until they have melted and disappeared. You can taste for seasoning, but it shouldn’t need any. Sprinkle the parsley over the top, if using. Remove the risotto from the heat and let it sit for a minute or two before serving in warmed bowls.

Adapted from ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian’.

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