Spring vegetable risotto with Saint Agur blue cheese crème

Fresh, sweet peas combined with the luxurious Saint Agur blue cheese crème makes for an exceptional spring dish, with just enough heartiness if the weather’s still cool outside. Rather than using a chicken or vegetable stock, I wanted to make this risotto with just the leftover pea pod shells to intensify the flavour – because I never forget my mother’s mantra, ‘thou shalt not waste!’

Recipe © Raymond Blanc / Photograph © Chris Terry

Preparation Time: 60 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4 - 6

Ingredients

  • FOR THE PEA STOCK (makes 600ml) :
  • 350g fresh pea pod shells (reserve the podded peas to make the purée and the vegetables below)
  • 350ml iced water
  • FOR THE PEA PUREE:
  • 100g fresh peas
  • 10g unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 75g Saint Agur blue cheese crème
  • FOR THE RISOTTO:
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 200g carnaroli rice
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1 pinch black pepper, freshly ground
  • 40g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • FOR THE VEGETABLES:
  • 5g unsalted butter
  • 50ml water
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 120g baby courgettes, cut into 2mm slices
  • 140g fresh peas
  • 40g breakfast radish, sliced
  • 40g radish tops
  • 40g baby leaf spinach
  • TO FINISH:
  • ¼ lemon, juiced
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • TO SERVE:
  • 4-6 tsp Saint Agur blue cheese crème
  • 10g pea shoots (optional)

Method

  1. FOR THE PEA STOCK: In a large saucepan of simmering water, cook the pea pod shells for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pea pod shells and refresh them in the iced water (*1). Once cooled, blitz the iced water and blanched pea pods in a food processor until smooth. Then strain through a fine sieve. Set aside 100ml of the pea stock to make the pea purée and the remaining 500ml to make the risotto.
  2. FOR THE PEA PUREE: 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 the boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Transfer carefully to a food processor, add the Saint Agur blue cheese crème and blend until smooth. Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool.
  3. TO COOK 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 the grains 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 the salt and pepper then cover with a lid and leave to cook for 20 minutes. Check every now and again that it is not boiling. After 20 minutes of cooking, pick up a grain of rice. You should see a tiny speck of white starch in the middle – this means the risotto is nearly cooked. Now you need to create the creaminess that we love so much from a risotto and that means 5 minutes of hard and fast stirring (*2). Once the 5 minutes of stirring are complete, further stir in 200ml of the cooled pea purée, which will revive the colour and add freshness. Then stir in the Parmesan. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
  4. FOR THE VEGETABLES: In a small saucepan, on a high heat, bring the butter, water and a pinch of salt to the boil. Add the courgette slices, 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 to cook for 20 seconds.
  5. TO FINISH: Stir the lemon juice, olive oil and the cooked vegetables into the risotto. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  6. TO SERVE: Divide the risotto into 4 to 6 bowls. Top with a teaspoon of Saint Agur blue cheese crème and the pea shoots, serve and enjoy. Bon appétit.
  7. RAYMOND'S NOTES (*): (*1) 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. (*2) By beating the rice, each grain will rub against another, which will extract the starch and give the rice its beautifully creamy consistency.