And I’m back on the wagon… Surprisingly, it isn’t a reaction to the only marginally riotous hen do last weekend, but just a general feeling that I am slipping into old ways and habits that I don’t think are healthy. Namely getting a bit drunk more often than I would like. It’s so energy zapping the next day – and with my two still so little I need all the energy I can get. With drinking, for me, also comes smoking, and I’ve developed a horrible, tickly cough that is definitely down to a few recent nights’ quaffing that I’ve had. I gave up alcohol for about 9 weeks a few months ago. At the time I wasn’t 100% that I’d given up for life, I just knew it felt right for me at that time. I have to say, I felt great. It’s the same now; I just think my health and happiness would benefit from a break from the bottle. What drove me to make a decision to pack it in was an article I read yesterday in a recent (June?) copy of Red Magazine. It was about a blog called Soberistas, which is run by a 30 something woman who quit the booze after struggling with it over many years. She quit drinking, but she didn’t feel she would benefit from going down the AA route to giving up – so she created this blog for people like her. This site is for people who want to quit drinking but don’t think they are ‘alcoholics’ basically. It is absolutely fascinating, and stories of what I would say are serious drinking problems as well as people who just feel that they were boozing a little too much, drew me in – I sat glued to the screen for well over an hour last night… Anyway, bizarrely, this morning there was story on the news about an increase in ‘middle aged’ (rude!) women in their 30s – 40s dying from alcohol abuse. The founder of Soberistas blog was right there talking on the news! What a coincidence! A ‘sign’? Probably not. Anyway, the long and short of it is, that for the time being, I shall be a Soberista and see how it goes…
So I made this risotto a few nights’ ago, when I was still drinking, and such bloody hard work it was, it drove me to have quite a few glasses of wine afterwards! But that is not to say it isn’t worth making, far from it! It is definitely one for the weekend though, preferably with a co-cook at your side, and even a glass of wine (or perhaps an Elderflower presse?). It’s a labour of love, put it that way. Although, all the bits to it are easy, there are just a few quite a few bits to do, but if time isn’t an issue, and you’re not too hot, then give it a whirl. One thing though, this risotto deserves the very best produce available – and a homemade vegetable stock. It’s one for those who are lucky enough to either grow their own veg, or to have (like me) a phenomenal grocery on hand. I got my hands on this lot of seasonal beauties from The Unicorn in Chorlton.
To make enough for 6 people:
For the homemade vegetable stock:
1 red onion, cut into chunks, skin on
200g carrots, cut into chunks
1 leek, same
Large handful of frozen peas
Bunch of fresh parsley stalks
3 cloves garlic, whole
About 10 peppercorns
2 litres boiling water
For the risotto:
2 1/2 litres of stock (top up homemade stock with steaming / boiling liquid)
600g carnoroli or arborio rice
200g rainbow chard, sliced into roughly 2cm strips
3 yellow courgettes, peeled with a potato peeler into very thin strips
1 1/2 of broad beans (weight in pods – that equates to not that much once podded and shelled)
200g spring onions, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsn extra virgin olive oil
Bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 large glass of white wine
Juice of a lemon
150g parmesan cheese, finely grated
3 tspn of salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
- To make your stock, simply put all your veg in a big pot with boiling water and cook for two hours. Strain and keep very hot on the hob if making the risotto there and then.
- Heat oil over medium flame in a large, heavy bottom pan. Add spring onions and sweat for 5 minutes. Now your garlic too, sweat for a further 5 minutes.
- Throw in your rice and coat in oil and onions/garlic for a few minutes. Now pour in the white wine and let it sizzle off for 5 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t catch.
- Ladle in (use a mug if you’ve not got a ladle) hot stock and stir. Keep stirring pretty much all the time until the stock has been sucked up by the rice.
- Meanwhile, pod, then steam your broad beans in a little boiling water for a few minutes. Keeping the water (add to the stock pot) take them out and place them in a bowl of cold water. Once cooled, shell the broad beans. You could eat them with their little coats on, but I prefer them shelled.
- All the while, keep adding hot stock to your rice and stirring… (see, I told you it would be better to make this with a co-cook didn’t I?! I, sadist as ever, chose to make it on my own)
- Now, steam your rainbow chard too. Again, just use a little water and once steamed (about 7 minutes), add your steaming water to the stock pot and put the chard to one side.
- Once your risotto is not far off – taste, and if there is a little bite left to the rice, but it is getting lovely and plumptious, then this is the correct point – take it off the heat.
- Shave your yellow courgettes (with a potato peeler or mandolin – or just slicing very very very thinly) into the risotto and, gently, incorporate them into the hot rice. Do the same with the chard and the broad beans. Add your freshly chopped mint and parsley too.
- Now put the pan back on the heat and add a little more stock (or you may have run out at this point, if so it’s fine to boil the kettle and use a little freshly boiled water) to keep it loose. Season well with salt and pepper. Don’t be shy, it needs a good seasoning. Add the lemon juice, parmesan cheese and taste. Adjust to suit.
- Serve with more freshly grated parmesan, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin.