As my out of season addiction with the Broad Bean continues, I thought I’d try something a little more warming….seeing as Spring seems to be dressed up in Winter clothing for now.
I love risotto. I learned how to make it when I lived in Venice almost 20 years ago. It was actually my American flatmate who taught me and I’ve been in love with the wonderful Arborio grain ever since. You can make risotto with pretty much anything, that’s the beauty of it. Whenever we’re low on things in the fridge but want something delicious and comforting, risotto is the dish to turn to.
When you know the basic formula you don’t really need to use a recipe, but there are always little tips and secrets to pick up if you take the time to look around. This recipe for Broad Bean Risotto with Mint is nothing out of the ordinary but there is something in here which I certainly wouldn’t have thought of had I made it without a bit of research. Taken from The Eagle Cookbook and found on The Guardian website, this is a delicious, easy and very pretty risotto which was a pleasure to both make and eat. I used mint but also some parsley to garnish – it worked.
Risotto with broad beans and mint
You could use fresh, but not frozen, peas instead of broad beans and you could also substitute basil, marjoram or oregano for mint.
Serves 5–6 as a starter
About 3kg/ 6½lb fresh broad beans (400g/14oz podded and shucked weight – see above)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (optional)
About 2 litres / 3½ pints vegetable or chicken stock
150g/5oz unsalted butter
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
300g/11oz arborio rice
A glass of white wine
A bunch of mint, chopped
About 75g/3oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The first thing I do for this recipe involves a food processor and is entirely optional. I put roughly half the broad beans in a food processor with the olive oil and pulse them roughly for about 20 seconds to make a loose paste. If the paste is too stiff, add a drop of water and pulse again very quickly. This adds a creamy base to the risotto and makes the colour a little more intense.
Put the stock in a pan and bring it to simmering point. Gently heat 100g/4oz of the butter in a separate pan, add the onions and garlic with a little salt and fry gently until tender. Do not let them brown. Turn the heat up high and pour in the rice. Stir it with a wooden spoon for about half a minute, coating it with the butter; do not let it stick to the pan. Add the wine and let it bubble fiercely for about a minute, stirring gently all the time. Quickly stir in the broad bean paste, if using, then reduce the heat and start to add the hot stock in stages as described on pages 92–93. When the rice is done, remove from the heat, add the rest of the butter and cover the pan until it has melted. Stir it in with the broad beans and mint, then add the Parmesan and some seasoning. Serve immediately
It’s been a strange few days. I thought mid week that Spring might actually be here to stay. It was warm, sunny and the house was full to bursting with daffodils. I started thinking about Spring flavoured food to cook and enjoy rather than warming Wintery soups to slurp. I even turned the heating off for a bit and told the children to put jumpers on when they complained of being cold. And now it’s snowing. Big, thick, fluffy flakes of snow have been falling since 7 this morning and all I want is a full roast dinner followed by crumble and custard.
But back to last week. When the sun was shining and the birds were singing, I decided to make Polpo’s Broad Bean, Mint and Ricotta Bruschetta. It was so good that I shall be eating it come rain, snow or shine for the rest of the year. I’ve made it twice since Thursday. I admit to cheating the first time and buying ready podded beans. I was hosting a working lunch “meeting” and had my 2 year old running around and it just wasn’t the right environment for a relaxing hour of podding. The second time however, I popped and podded and the result was even more delicious.
Here’s the recipe and finished dish straight from the pages of Polpo and a picture of my market bought beans pre pod. I tried it the second time with Mozzarella rather than Ricotta – just roughly chop up some good quality Buffalo Mozzarella and mix with some good olive oil and salt and pepper. It made for a much messier Bruschetta but surely that’s half the fun.
Broad Bean, Mint and Ricotta Bruschetta
2 thick slices of sourdough or soda bread
A good handful of podded broad beans
3tbsp fresh ricotta
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ clove of garlic
The zest of one lemon and a little juice
10 mint leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Place the broad beans into boiling water for 5 minutes, remove and plunge into cold water. Then drain and skin them. Put them in a small bowl and dress them in the olive oil, the zest, a little lemon juice, most of the mint, salt and pepper.
Toast or grill the slices of bread so that they are crunchy on the outside but still have a bit of give when squeezed. Rub one side of each slice with the cut side of the garlic. The clove will melt into the bread’s hot surface.
Spread the fresh ricotta, with salt and pepper added to taste, on to the hot and prepared bread. Top with the broadf beans and garnish with the remaining chopped mint.
And to finish, a little bit of Cotswold snow on a Sunday in March.
The dust is still flying. We were very almost there and then we found some damp. So off came the plaster. Again.
So, while the last remaining walls dry and the floor tiles are left to stick, I’m doing a little bit of set dressing. Its going to look absolutely wonderful when it’s all done and already the extra space has changed my life. I have a utility room. The washing machine and dryer are no longer in the kitchen. I can have them on all day long and I don’t care. And I have a linen cupboard which has made me happier than any inanimate object really should. And, I’ve got Pigeon on my walls which is making me feel very grown up indeed.
What could be cheerier than new walls and a jug of daffodils.