Normally when I eat risotto, it tastes a little too heavy for my preference. I wanted to create a creamy vegan risotto (hold the cream). My dinner companions and I wolfed this down in the blink of an eye. It’s a bit of a “cheater’s risotto,” because you don’t stand and stir for 30 minutes (ain’t nobody got time for that!). However, I promise it’s still as luxurious as the original version.
This was bright, lemony and tasted incredibly rich and creamy. The chewy, sweet brown rice acts as a vehicle for one of my favourite spring foods: peas. My first memory of peas was from the film, Driving Miss Daisy, when Idella is shelling peas on the porch and well, you know… I also grew up eating peas as a side dish at dinner, which is a much happier story. So we’ll leave it at that.
Peas are a starchy, sweet spring vegetable, that deliver a unique array of micro and macronutrients. Here’s what these tiny, tender, globular green goodies can do for you.
Health Benefits of Peas
- High in fibre for a healthy digestive system, lowered LDL “bad” cholesterol and blood sugar stability
- Provides a dose of plant-based protein
- Blood sugar balancing thanks to their fibre and protein combination
- Rich in vitamin K, necessary for proper blood clotting
- Loaded with a variety of B-vitamins
- Folate-rich, making them a wonderful food for the ladies
- Mineral-rich, delivering iron, potassium, manganese, calcium and phosphorous
- Rich in antioxidants
Peas contain quite a bit of starch, so fresh peas quickly lose their sweetness and texture when left for too long. If you purchase fresh peas at the farmer’s market or pick them from your backyard, use them within a day for the best flavour and texture. If you can’t get fresh, frozen peas work perfectly for your year-round pea consumption. They’re picked at the peak of freshness and quickly frozen. I would recommend you avoid the canned, processed peas as there’s little nutrition, taste or texture left (peas and thank you).
This recipe is full of chewy, rich, B-vitamin and fibre-packed brown rice and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from the cashew “cream” sauce. The lemon adds zip and the dish gets its trademark “cheesy” flavour from nutritional yeast, a B-vitamin-rich inactive yeast that makes everything taste better.
I hope you enjoy this creamy, dreamy and light take on one of my favourite spring comfort food dishes.
- “Cream” Sauce (makes 1 cup)
- ¼ cup raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours in boiling water, drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ cup water
- 3 cups cooked brown rice, preferably short grain (about 1½ cups dry)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1½ cups peas (fresh or frozen)
- 3 cups packed, washed baby spinach
- ¼ cup + ½ cup water or vegetable broth
- To make the Cream Sauce: Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until creamy. Set aside.
- To make the Risotto: In a high-sided saucepan or large pot, add the onion and ¼ cup of the water. Cover and cook until the onion is soft over medium heat (about 8 minutes). Add the cooked brown rice. Stir to combine.
- Over medium-low heat, add the cream sauce to the rice mixture. Cook until heated through. Add the spinach, peas and additional water. Cook over medium-low until the spinach is wilted, the peas are bright green, and the mixture is creamy (about 5-10 minutes). Serve hot.