Sunday, 1 March 2015

Keeping it Simple

Risi-Bisi, Carciofi & Menta
Risi-Bisi with Artichoke & Mint


Risi Bisi- funny name! Just means rice and peas of course- talk about simple food! But some things simply work well together, which is probably why there are probably dishes that are based on rice and peas the whole world over.

This is not a risotto, it is made with long-corn rice and what makes it so nice in my version is the combination with mint and artichoke and the use of fresh garden peas. And it tastes so much more exciting than it sounds!

I love dishes that use only a few, good, fresh ingredients and I love to get the most out of each individual flavor. I also like to rely on those flavors to make dishes special, rather than to always resort to using those obvious flavors, such as garlic or Parmesan cheese, to make my meals taste good.

Don't get me wrong- garlic and Parmesan are great! But where is the fun in taking the easy way out all the time and doing the same thing over and over? There is more to Italian food than that!

1 artichoke, 1 teacupful of Basmati rice (or similar), 1 shallot, 2 handfuls of fresh peas, fresh mint and parsley, salt, pepper, olive oil- the end! How much simpler could you want it? You could add garlic if you wanted... but... I didn't!  


This is a very healthy meal- light, low in fat, but so much higher in flavor than you might think. Trust me on this- you do not need chicken stock, butter or saffron- all you need to do is make sure that all of the flavors that you have get absorbed into the rice. Period.


Trim the stalk of the artichoke, pluck away the tougher, outer leaves, cut away the top half and discard, then cut it into quarters. making one deep cut, beneath the "choke", simply lift it out and discard it- and your artichoke is ready to go! You can squeeze a little lemon juice over the cut surfaces to stop them going dark if you like, but basically, you can skip doing that as it is about to go straight into a pot with boiling water!

Shell the peas, finely chop the shallot- and basically you have done all of your "hard work"- hurray!


Pop the artichokes into plenty of well salted water and boil for 30 minutes.


After 30 minutes, add the peas and continue boiling for a further 10 minutes. Soon, that water will be filled with the sweet flavor of the peas as well as the rich and slightly bitter flavor of the artichokes... and that is a good thing!


Remove the artichokes and the peas from the water and add the rice, straight in there, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes with the lid on.


Depending on how much you are preferring, either use separate pans if you have more than one artichoke... or do what I did and fry the artichokes together with the shallot and peas in a little olive oil, with plenty of freshly ground pepper.

Add the peas and shallot, along with plenty of finely chopped mint and parsley into the rice, stir everything through thoroughly and allow to sit and steam together, with the lid on, for the next 5-10 minutes.


In the meantime, the artichokes will have fried and become nice and golden around the edges and are ready to serve! Along with a little more freshly chopped mint and parsley, a last grind of pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, you have a winning combination right there on your plate!

It's a classic combination in a million and one Italian kitchens... artichokes, mint and peas are just meant to be together- so who am I to keep them apart? I was just doing my good deed for the day- hehe! Thankfully I was able to eat it too!

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