Summer time risotto – with balcony grown broad beans

DSC_0395_2Back in april, when it was still way too cold outside, I planted a broad bean in a bit of soil and put it in my window sill to grow. The seed, that was given to me at a food festival, was taped to a little piece of paper that stated that this single bean would one day become a big plant if only it was planted…

With some proper TLC from my side, the broad bean delivered on its promise and within a week or so grew into a tiny plant. I have grown many different plants from seeds, but this was definitely the most spectacular growing process I ever witnessed. When I transferred the small plant into a bigger pot and put it on my balcony, it grew taller and taller until it was an impressive 1.5 meters high and began to form beautiful flowers. The yellowish/black flowers were not only pretty but also proved to be a big hit with the neighborhood bees! When the flowers eventually turned into fat velvety pods, the time had finally come to start thinking of a recipe that would do them justice.

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The first thing that came to my mind was to make a light vegetarian summer risotto. Although the word light should probably not be used in the same sentence as risotto, I do think I am allowed this time. My recipe does not call for butter, and because this is usually a mandatory part of any risotto recipe, I believe this recipe can pass as light. Do not worry, there is still enough cheese in it to make it nice and creamy. I feel confident enough to promise you that you will not even miss the butter!

Although my plant produced a decent amount of broad beans, it was unfortunately not enough for a full pot of risotto. That is why I also bought some nice fresh peas. I actually like this because the sweet pies help balancing out the slight bitterness of the broad beans.

When you use fresh broad beans for this dish, I would advice you to double pod them so you can see their lovely bright green color. If the term ‘double podding’ is new to you, or you do not yet know how to do it, the step by step tutorial below will break it down for you.

http://www.waitrose.com/home/recipes/step_by_step/how_to_double_pod_broad_beans.html

I think the meatiness of the dried tomatoes gives the risotto a nice bit of extra flavor and texture, but I have to warn you that they are very strong in flavor. If you do not like this you can easily leave them out or replace the dried tomatoes for something else.

Summer time risotto recipe: Cooking time 20 minutes.

Serves 2/3 people as a main course or 4 people as a starter.

  • 2 table spoons of olive oil
  • 700 ml vegetable/chicken stock
  • A glass of white wine/sherry
  • 2 small shallots/onion finely chopped
  • 200 gram risotto rice (Arborio)
  • 200 gram fresh broad beans/peas or a mix of the two (frozen is also an option)
  • 40 gram (small hand full) dried tomatoes sliced into thin strips
  • 125 gram asparagus tips
  • 100 gram fresh soft goatscheese
  • 100 gram grated parmezan cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and soften the chopped shallots for one minute. Now add the rice and keep stirring for 3 more minutes until the rice becomes translucent. Make sure that the heat is not on too high and the onion and the rice do not brown.

To get risotto rice perfectly ‘al dente’ it needs to boil for approximately 16 minutes. After the rice has become translucent you can start by first adding the wine and then a ladle of stock to the rice and let it cook, gently stirring from the center to the side. Turn up the heat a little if necessary. Continue adding the stock, ladle by ladle, while stirring, allowing the rice to cook and the stock to be absorbed each time. After about 6 minutes add the dried tomatoes so they get some time to absorb the stock and to become a bit softer. Meanwhile just keep stirring and adding stock. After 5 more minutes add the broad beans and peas and keep stirring for the last 5 minutes.

In order to prevent the fragile asparagus tips from breaking while stirring,  you can blanche/cook them separately and add them at the last minute. If you are using regular chopped up green asparagus you can add them at the same time as the broad beans/peas.

When the risotto is ‘al dente’, which means that there is still a slight crunchiness in the middle of the rice, you can take the risotto of the heat. Always make sure that you taste the risotto first. Cooking is no exact science and it can happen that it needs a minute or two more. If this is the case do not panic and just add a little bit more stock and keep stirring.

Now add the asparagus tips, the goats cheese and the parmesan cheese and stir for 1-2 more minutes until the risotto becomes nice and creamy and is ready to serve.

Serve the risotto immediately and enjoy!

“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food” (W.C. Fields 1880- 1946)

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I hate to waste food. Before I take a trip to the grocery store, I always check my fridge first and use what is still in there as my starting point for the next dinner. By doing so, I do not only challenge myself to use my imagination and combine ingredients, but at the same time it also reduces the chance of having to throw out food because it has gone bad.
Sure enough I am not a saint and sometimes things do end up in the bin, but I really try to make a conscious effort to minimize my food waste.

Another thing I loathe to do is to poor the remainder of a good bottle of wine down the sink. Even though my friends and I enjoy a bottle (or two, three…) during our weekend dinners, it does occasionally happen that a bottle goes unfinished. If the consumed amount of alcohol did not prevent me from remembering to put the cork back in the bottle (which I have learned is essential to keeping wine taste nice) I like to label this bottle as cooking wine!
If I have more than half a bottle left and it is horrible and cold outside, I love to make a proper slow-cooked red wine beef stew. If I do not have the time, it is finally nice and sunny, or I have less than 1/3 of a bottle left, I prefer to make my version of a no fail, super easy, and very tasty meatball spaghetti dish.

I believe every person should have at least 5 dishes in his/her cooking repertoire that you can cook really well, but at the same time do not require much time and effort. That way you can never go wrong when friends come over for dinner and it gives you time to sit down and talk to your guests. If you have trouble getting to 5 or you have grown tired of your usual recipes, I highly recommend you add this recipe to your routine.

Making meatballs from scratch usually takes quite a bit of time and also leaves you with a set of dirty hands. I promise that this meatball recipe is not only super quick, but it also does not involve vigorous scrubbing of the hands.
The trick for instant meatballs in 3 easy steps:
1. Buy some good quality sausages
2. wet your hands with water (which prevents the meat from sticking to your hands)
3. Take a sausage and gently push a section of the meat out of the skin, into a bowl or straight into the pan. I usually manage to squeeze at least 5 or 6 balls out of one sausage.

Because this dish does not require many ingredients, I think it is essential to go for the best quality sausage, cherry tomatoes, black olives and parmesan cheese you can get. I personally also prefer to use fresh pasta, but if you can not get that it also works fine with any dried version.

Ingredients for 2 people (cooking time 15 minutes):

– 250 grams of Italian sausage (I like to use lamb-sausages, but veal or pork sausages will do fine as well)
– 1 shallot finely chopped
– 1 clove of garlic chopped
– 1 small can of concentrated tomato puree (70 grams)
– 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
– 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
– 1 full glass of red wine (a little bit more does not hurt either)

– 20 Cherry tomatos (halved)
– 3 tablespoons of small sun-dried black olives (preferably in oil)

– A bunch op chopped basil
– 2 hands full of freshly grated parmesan cheese

– 250 grams of fresh spaghetti or tagliatelle

Start with putting a big pan with salted water on the stove and bring to the boil.
Then place a frying pan on a high heat and add the little meatballs that you have created by pushing the meat out of the sausage skin. You can add a little bit of olive oil to the pan, but most of the time the sausages contain enough fat to cook in their own grease. When the sausages are turning a little brown, add the chopped shallot and garlic to the pan and fry for two more minutes. When the meatballs are browned, add the tomato puree, the wine and the fresh herbs and give it a good stir. Let this bubble away for a couple minutes. Now add the halved cherry tomatoes and the sun-dried olives and let it simmer over a low heat for a couple more minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Now it is time to put the fresh pasta into the boiling water and cook according to the instructions on the package, usually this takes 3/4 minutes. (If you use dried pasta you should start cooking the pasta and the sauce at the same time)
If the sauce looks too thick, just add a bit of the boiling pasta-water to dilute the sauce.

Drain your pasta when it is all dente and poor it into a nice serving dish. Add the pasta sauce and sprinkle with the chopped basil and parmesan cheese. Stir everything together so that all the pasta is covered in sauce and it looks pretty. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Please do not despair if you do not have some wine left from a previous night. It is perfectly acceptable to buy a bottle of wine for this recipe and use the remainder of the bottle for drinking!

I like to serve this pasta with a a simple, fresh salad. This time I made the salad with: thinly sliced fennel, baby lettuce leaves, capers (optional), some good olive oil and a sprinkle of lemon juice. It really can be as easy as that!

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