Who doesn’t like risotto? I’m yet to come across such a person – it’s perfect comfort food and so versatile, you can make up virtually any flavour combination you fancy and it can be warm and wintery or fresh and summery. Food you can adapt with the seasons is certainly my kind of thing. One of my favourite risottos, however, is the classic primavera – or spring vegetable – not that I limit it to just Spring.
I’ve called this MY risotto primavera as there are lots of different versions and I’ve put my own spin on it. I haven’t used asparagus which I know could be considered sacrilege to the risotto purists among us. The only reason for this is the incredibly short asparagus season in the UK (which i’ve missed) and the imported stuff is so disappointing I prefer to leave it out altogether. I like to add lots of freshly grated courgettes, plenty of peas and broadbeans and a blend of pecorino and parmesan to give the most luxurious of tastes to this otherwise modest dish. I am lucky to be cooking with cheeses that have been bought back from Rome (where my boyfriend’s parents live) so this dish really does have the taste of Italy.
Give this dish a try to brighten up a midweek meal or enjoy on the weekend, it’s special enough for a dinner party but easy enough to do any time. What was I saying about versatility? Plus all that veg makes you feel less guilty about the cheese and butter…life is all about balance, after all.
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 shallots or 1 onion
2 celery sticks
400g risotto rice
Glass of dry vermouth or white wine
1.3 litres of chicken stock
2 large courgettes, grated
2 garlic cloves
Bowlful of peas
Bowlful of broad beans, shelled
75g butter, from the fridge copped into cubes
Fresh mint, very finely chopped
Start by getting two pans ready, a basic saucepan to keep the stock bubbling and a deep wide pan to cook the risotto in.
Chop the onions, celery and garlic finely. Heat up the olive oil and sweat the onion and celery until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes, adding the garlic for a further minute.
Next add the rice and cook until hot and translucent, stir constantly so the rice doesn’t catch.
When the rice is nicely coated, add the vermouth or wine and cook until the liquid is totally absorbed, then start adding the hot stock, a ladle-full at a time until each has reduced. Make sure you don’t stop stirring and don’t be tempted to add more stock, it won’t be as creamy if you do this! This process will take about 20 minutes until all your stock is used up.
When the risotto is about 5 minutes from being done, stir in your courgette, peas, and broad beans.
Once cooked, but still with a little bite, take the pan off the heat and add the cheese (holding a little bit back for sprinkling on at the end), mint, butter and seasoning. Put the lid on the pan and leave to rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not skip this step – it is the difference between a thoroughly average risotto and a dreamy, creamy risotto.
When the few minutes have passed, take off the lid and give the rice a really good stir to make sure the mint, butter and cheeses are evenly dispersed. Divide between plates and sprinkle with extra cheese.
- Serves 4-6 people (depending on greed or hunger levels)
- To make vegetarian use veg stock and use a veggie alternative to parmesan
- To make vegan leave out the butter and cheese altogether (it won’t taste as good but still be enjoyable, and healthier!)