Chicken, pea and pancetta ‘risotto’

16 Feb

Cauliflower is a wonder vegetable as far as I’m concerned.

When we first started eating primally, I was astounded at how well it substituted for rice alongside curries.  Okay, so it still tastes of cauliflower and you’ll never convince anyone that they’re eating actual rice, but it eats so well alongside a blisteringly hot curry! It’s a delicious mind-trick that I will happily go along with for the rest of my life.  (And it is so nice to not feel bloated after a curry any more.)

After a few weeks of cauliflower this, and cauliflower that, I began to wonder if cauliflower rice could be used to make a risotto.  After all, I’d already done mash, rice and couscous with it… So I began to experiement and was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.

This flavour combination is a nod to an Angela Hartnett risotto that I used to make quite regularly in Past Grain Times.  The main reason I loved her risotto was the way the gorgeously sweet peas contrasted with the incredible salty crunch of the pancetta.  Pea and ham had always been an awesome combination but this really stepped things up another notch.  I added some cooked chicken thighs to up the protein level to ensure tummy-filling happiness.

A few notes on alterations you might wish to make.  Pancetta is awesome (especially if homemade), but really, you could use any bacon you have to hand for this dish.  Just chop it up and get it nice and crispy.  I’d say that this risotto is about 80% Primal as the Philly soft cheese is rather on the processed side.  If you can find some old-fashioned cream cheese from a deli, I’d totally go for that instead and perhaps add a sprinkle of dry herbs in with the onions at the beginning.  To make this paleo rather than primal, you could try replacing the cheeses with a few tablespoons of coconut cream or coconut manna–I haven’t tried this myself, just speculating here!

Chicken, pea and pancetta risotto

Serves 2 greedy people

  • 100g diced pancetta
  • 50g finely chopped onion
  • 160g frozen petits pois
  • 200g roasted chicken thighs, sliced or chopped (your preference)
  • 400g cauliflower, riced
  • 100g Philadelphia Light with garlic and herbs
  • 30g grated Parmesan
  • ~60ml chicken stock (hot)
  • salt and pepper

Put a large frying pan over low heat and sprinkle the diced pancetta into it.  Cook for about five minutes without stirring to allow the fat to start rendering out of the pancetta.  Once the pan is looking oily, turn the heat up to medium and cook the pancetta until it is nice and crispy all over.  Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon.  Don’t pour the fat away!

Add onion and frozen peas to the frying pan and cook gently until the onion is translucent and the peas have defrosted and warmed through.  This should take about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, put your cauliflower rice in a microwave-proof dish, cover with clingfilm (& piece it) and microwave for 3 minutes on HIGH (my microwave is 900W).  Add the chopped chicken to the pan and allow that to heat through, too.

Once the vegetables and chicken are combined and heated through, rescue the cauliflower rice from the microwave and dump it into the frying pan.  Stir well.  Make a well in the centre of the risotto mixture and pour in the chicken stock and add the two cheeses.  Mix the cheeses well into the stock to melt and form a creamy sauce.  Once this happens, stir the whole lot together until all the pieces of cauliflower are bathed in creamy goodness.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.

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