Risotto aux petits pois et à la menthe

Longing for a hint of spring as the Paris winter drags on and on, I made a cheery pot of risotto with peas and fresh mint the other day. The inspiration for this dish was not my own. I first had it last summer at a beautiful English country pub, The Duke of Cumberland Arms, in West Sussex, southwest of London. It was a rainy day, so my friend and I lunched indoors — and our eyes lit up when the supremely green risotto was brought to our table.

Risotto aux petits pois et à la menthe / Risotto with peas and mint

It was dotted with peas but also surprisingly creamy. How had the chef achieved this delightful effect, I wondered. When we were out in the garden for coffee after lunch — at a table with a big umbrella — I saw him wander by and had to ask. Chef Simon Goodman was happy to oblige. The trick, he said, was to purée some of the peas. Sort of like the famous (infamous?) ‘mushy peas’ that Britons enjoy with their fish and chips…

So you make a typical risotto — sauté onion in olive oil, add rice and stir-fry briefly, add white wine, then broth. Separately, cook the peas and purée about two-thirds of them with fresh mint while leaving the other third whole. When the rice is al dente, stir in the puréed peas, simmer briefly, then add the whole peas, butter and freshly grated parmesan. Let it sit a couple of minutes, covered, and bring to the table. Prepare for applause…

As readers of this site will know, I’m very fond of risotto and over the years have posted recipes with spinach, pumpkin, lobster, wild mushrooms, morel mushrooms, saffron, radicchio (one of my favorites) and asparagus … with peas! I serve the risotto either as a main course — it makes a great lunch dish, followed by a salad — or as the starter for a more elaborate meal, usually Italian themed. I might pair it, for example, with veal saltimbocca, parmesan chicken or oven-roasted eggplant, Mediterranean style.

Locally grown fresh peas have not appeared at Paris farmers markets yet, but that was not a problem — as this dish may be made with frozen peas any time of the year. That’s lucky, given the endless Paris winter. We have has been treated to months of cold, wet, gray, blustery weather and it just won’t seem to let up — the Seine actually burst its banks this week. But, according to the calendar, it will officially be spring in just two more weeks…

Happy cooking!

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