Risi e Bisi

August 19, 2007 | 33 Comments

String of Pearls from our garden

There are some culinary matches that are just meant to be. Bagels and cream cheese, tequila and lime, pancakes and maple syrup – ingredients that complement each other through their contrasting flavours, textures and colours. They work in tandem without losing their individual attributes, and the sum is much greater than its parts.

The Italians have a term to describe this form of creative harmony – come il parmigiano sulla pasta (like Parmesan on pasta). It means “exactly the way something ought to be”.

A signature pairing common to most culinary traditions is that of rice and peas.

Some, like the Japanese Mame Gohan and the Indian Matar Pulao use fresh green peas.

Other rice and pea creations – as in the Carribean – use dried peas. Either way, the end result signifies comfort in all its simplicity.

Our favourite combination of rice and peas is the Italian Risi e Bisi.

Risi = rice, Bisi = peas. This is a risotto in which the consonance of sounds is matched by the sweet harmony of flavours.

While risotto is traditonally prepared with glutinous Italian rices like Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli, we prefer to use whole grain glutinous rices like Rose Matta (See Rositto, the better Risotto).

img_2396.jpg In this dish, we’ve used Bhutanese red rice, the beautiful grain fed entirely through glacial runoffs in the Himalayas. (More about Bhutanese red rice HERE) This nutty, wholesome grain cooks relatively quickly and is available at some specialty stores.

We were attempting a drier version of the traditonal risotto, and this rice worked fine though it is not as glutinous as the Italian risotto rices or Rose Matta.

This recipe is from our Italian vegetarian cookbook, Gusto Italiano by Ursula Ferrigno. (See review here)

She tells us:

This recipe has become a specialty of Venice because of the wonderful soil of the Veneto, where peas grow in abundance. In the pea season there is such a glut that the vendors don’t bother to weigh them out but just pour the pods freely into your bag …

We used fresh peas and mint from our garden.

Ours is a drier, lower-fat version of her recipe. We have listed the original recipe, with notes indicating our alterations.
The recipe calls for adding the peas in the beginning. We prefer to add it five minutes from the end.

RISI E BISI (Rice and Peas, Italian-style)

2.25 pounds fresh pea pods
**we used 1 cup shelled fresh peas
1.5 cups Vialone Nano risotto rice
** we used Bhutanese red rice
4 tbsps unsalted butter and 2 tbsps olive oil
**we used 1 tablespoon butter and no oil
2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
6 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
4.5 cups hot vegetable stock

**We used 3.5 cups. For stock, we dissolved 1 tsp Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base in hot water
½ cup dry white wine
a handlful of fresh flat-leaf mint, chopped
a handlful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

**we didn’t use parsley, but added some extra mint
2 oz. Parmesan, freshly grated, plus extra for serving
sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

1. If using frozen peas, keep them out to thaw, or microwave for a minute.
2. In a heavy saucepan, saute the garlic and onion in the butter and oil until translucent, Add the peas, parsley and stock to barely cover. (We added the peas towards the end and replaced the parsley with some mint) Simmer gently for 2 minutes.
3. Add the rice, wine and pepper, stir to coat in the mixture with a wooden spoon. Add a ladelful of hot stock and stir at a slow boil until it is absorbed by the rice. Keep adding the stock in this manner, a ladleful at a time until the stock is used up stirring continuously – about 20-25 minutes. Five mintues from the end, we added the fresh peas. Remove from heat.
4. If using thawed frozen peas, add them now. Stir in some salt (if you’re using bouillon, it’s salty, so keep that in mind), the mint and Parmesan. Add more pepper if necessary.
5. Cover and let it stand for a minute for the rice to rest. Serve on hot plates, with extra grated Parmesan if desired.

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33 Comments

  1. nandita says:

    Like Cluri, I thought this was your nomme for bisi bele bhaath ;) The peas are nice and fleshy- would add tons of taste to any dish!!

  2. archana says:

    The picture is so amazing. This risi bisi (liked the name ) minty peas rice looks yummy ;;) :cool: :dance:

  3. Priya says:

    You guys are really adventurous in your selection of rice. Will have to try a risotto after seeing these beautiful dishes you have been creating. Do you buy a couple of pounds of each variety to try out ??

    white rice we buy in small quantites. rose matta we buy a 10 or 20-pound bag, depending on what’s available. we bought a big bag of the black rice too, since there was no small bag. – b.

  4. madhuli says:

    Hey even I thought that’s the name for bisi bele bhaath after reading the title!You guys rock with your innovative recipes! :dance:

  5. Raaga says:

    It looks so beautiful. It must taste lovely too. Will try this when peas are in season.

  6. Manisha says:

    Where do you buy your Bhutanese rice?

    in the bin at the co-op. it’s expensive – around 4.50 a pound. we buy it once in a blue moon. – b.

  7. coffee says:

    :hmm: your posts on risottos with diff varieties of rice is making me change my notion of risotto = arborio now!

  8. Meeta says:

    Lovely! Because this rice is so damn expensive I tend to mix it with other rice to make a kind of mix. It tastes great though and we find it exciting with all the different colors. Risi E Bisi looks great!

  9. sra says:

    That reminds me of Kheema cooked with peas!

  10. Cinnamon says:

    Looks wonderful… must be tasting great too!!!

  11. musical says:

    Trust you both for coming up with the most innovative food :) and hey this name has the same zing as gonglu and bhadang :-D

  12. Anita says:

    I mix it with rose matta and use in soups – it does hold its shape well. I love its dark colour.

  13. Santhi says:

    lovely recipe..you know what, if there was a voting for the best food pic, I think this one will win hands down… :)

  14. Nupur says:

    You really have the most incredible collection of rices in your pantry! This dish is gorgeous with the contrasting jewel-ike colors.

  15. indosungod says:

    Bhutanese Red Rice, have never seen it. I will go hunting for it for sure, Risi e Bisi looks great with those sparkling green gems.

  16. Padma says:

    Risi e Bisi looks wonderfule with those pecks of greens from your garden…You alone can start a rice-o-pedia someday with the use of variety of rice grains! :bow: :bow: :bow:

  17. Rachna says:

    yah when i saw the title me also thought its a twist of bisi bele baath… i have never wanted to try risotto… looks all mushy rice to me in all the pics…and i know i love khichdi… you encourage me to give it a go…. :)

  18. sandeepa says:

    Loved those peas

  19. TBC says:

    Your risotto looks fabulous!:)
    I really liked the pic of a spoonful of risotto :yes:
    Bellissimo! :horn:

  20. richa says:

    what a cute name & lovely colors :) need to chk out the better than bouillon, does it have less sodium?

    low-sodium is available too – b.

  21. sharmi says:

    it is a very informative post to me. Never heard of this rice. the recipe looks so nice .

  22. saju says:

    Nice One! Looks so tasty. I need to try this soonnnnnn!

  23. saju says:

    ps great pic of the pea pod

  24. Suganya says:

    Looking at them, I feel that the rice is chewy. Are they?

    just slightly chewy – i love chewy rice. – b.

  25. shilpa says:

    When I read the name, I thought you were referring to Kannada word “bisi”(hot) :embarrass.

    A nice name for a nice dish. Very different one. I am yet to try red rice. Will have to try this sometime.

  26. Laavanya says:

    The peas look so vibrant and fresh! I love chewy rice and this seems perfect.

  27. Madhu says:

    Hi Bee,
    Colour combo is so beautiful. Never cooked with red rice before but have used redrice flour for making rotti.

  28. Cynthia says:

    You see that comment you left on Shilpa’s blog about being a real artist? Well here’s looking at you kid because you too are an artist. The food, the food styling and the photography. Oh wait, that includes Jai too!

  29. neroli says:

    What a gorgeous dish! The red rice must taste delicious against the sweetness of the peas.

  30. Wow! I just loved the closeup shot of peas! We all know 2 words in bhutanese now!
    What an innovative entry. You have inspired me bee.
    Great investigation work bee! I am talking about the copy blog
    :yes:You should read the comments we left in her blog for more entertainment.

  31. Smita says:

    So purdy! Pretty peas :-)

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