There are a couple of things that are going to take a while on this one, let me say that right from the start. This isn’t a dinner to prepare when the potential for frazzle-ment is high. It’s a weekender, or one to enjoy when the kids aren’t back yet (or are away!). The two faffy bits: first of all the making of a risotto, whilst it isn’t hard in itself, but it does require standing by the stove stirring, not all the time, but yeah, quite a lot of it! The second bit that requires patience is the broad bean prep. Popping out of pods, then blanching and squeezing out of shells. I think it’s worth it, you might not agree! It helps if you are drinking wine at the same time. Frozen broad beans are good though, when fresh aren’t in season – or you just can’t be bothered with the de-podding. Of course you could just use frozen peas… that’d be a nice alternative.
The idea of cooking with lettuce is a weird one to get your head around for English people, I know. But the French have been cooking with lettuce for ages. It’s good, really! Only thing is, cooked lettuce browns quickly, so best to eat it all up there and then (it’s fine to reheat though, just that the colour isn’t as nice). I don’t normally use cream cheese in a risotto; I’m a die hard parmesan ‘mantecura’ girl (that means the final flourish of the risotto cooking where you make it really creamy by beating lots and adding either butter or cheese), but in this instance the creamy cheese really works, especially with a good squeeze of lemon. But God don’t let me stop you using parmesan if that’s the way you want to play it. I always use parsley in a risotto, but the mint is so fresh and really works. Still, if parsley is all you can get, that’s fine.
So, did the kids like it (let’s get to the crux of the matter)? Well, yes, apart from the lettuce, which they both picked out (Bea just copies Artie, I know she’d eat it if he weren’t there). But, major win, they both loved broad beans! I’d say that was a semi-result!
Serves: 4 adults
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
400g risotto rice
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 rashers of smoked good quality back bacon or pancetta (streaky bacon), chopped into lardons
1 medium glass of white wine
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 little gem lettuce, shredded into about 1cm strips
125g (about 12 pods) broad beans (weight when in shells)
3 tablespoons of Philadelphia cheese (or Mascarpone)
Juice of half a lemon
About 8 leaves of mint, sliced finely
- First off add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin to a large heavy bottom pan, then soften your garlic and onions with bacon for about 5 minutes without colouring.
- Boil a kettle and make a litre of stock (or heat up some homemade stuff (go you for making that!). Have this ready in a saucepan with a ladle or similar ready to add it to the rice.
- Prep your beans by podding them and blanching in boiling water for 3 minutes, then pop them all and set aside.
- Now add the rice to the bacon/onions/garlic and let the oily mix cover the rice with a good stir. Add your glass of wine and turn up the heat. Let it sizzle the booze off for a few minutes.
- Ladle in the hot stock, and stir. Keep repeating this until all the stock has gone. You will need a few ladle’s worth from a boiled kettle at the end of the stock too – just pure boiling water is fine at that stage, as there is a lot of flavour in there. This stock/stirring bit takes a while, about 20 minutes, so when you think your rice is done (nice and plump but still with a little bite to it), then you are ready to add the vegetables.
- Turn off the heat. Add your shredded lettuce and beans, and very gently fold into the mix.
- Squeeze of lemon, cream cheese, salt and pepper finish the dish off. Taste, and maybe add a little splash of boiling water to loosen – I just hate a stiff risotto, don’t you?
- Enjoy with wine and nothing more!