Thursday, 22 March 2012

Beetroot and broad bean risotto

Risotto is my go-to comfort food when I need something soothing and creamy and I have two standby favourites - my chicken and pea risotto and a broad bean and bacon recipe, which I think I borrowed from Nigel Slater back in the mists of time. But once in a while I'll ring the changes and shuffle the ingredients around. Springtime offers endless possibilities, with all the lovely new vegetables coming into season. Earlier this week, I came home from the market laden with tiny haricots verts, young turnips and beetroots, purple sprouting broccoli, a bunch of asparagus, two globe artichokes (the first I've seen this year) and fresh garlic.

Wednesday's supper was going to be based around the purple sprouting - it's one of my favourite vegetables and only in season for a very short time so I tend to eat a lot of it when it's around. But then there was a change of plan and it was risotto for tea instead.

This is very brightly coloured but has a light, creamy texture and a surprisingly delicate flavour. Suitably springlike, it also hits the spot while there's still a nip in the air as we ease towards Easter. 

What you need:
Half a mug of Arborio rice
1 onion, chopped
2 small cooked beetroot
A mug of broad beans
A pint of vegetable stock
Half a glass of vermouth
Olive oil
Crème fraiche
Fresh dill and chives, chopped
Parmesan cheese

What to do: 
Blanch the broad beans and skin them. Dice the beetroot finely.

Sauté the onion in the olive oil over a medium heat until it turns translucent. Slosh in the vermouth and stir well. When it's almost absorbed, start adding the stock - little by little, stirring well each time and making sure it's almost absorbed before adding more.Test the rice after 15 minutes; it should be al dente. When it's at this stage add the broad beans. Keep stirring for another 5 minutes and add more stock if you need to. Add the beetroot and stir through very carefully.

Take the pan off the heat, stir through a generous teaspoon of crème fraiche, a handful of grated fresh parmesan and the chopped herbs. Season to taste.

Cook's tips: 
As usual with beetroot, it's a good idea to wear protective gloves when handling it if you don't want to stain your hands red. Ready-cooked beetroot saves you an hour of preparation time - don't buy the sort in vinegar though.

The easiest way to chop a very small amount of herbs quickly and finely is to put them in a coffee mug and snip them with kitchen scissors.

If you use frozen broad beans, dump them in a heatproof basin and pour boiling water over them. The water will cool fairly quickly and the skins should just slip off.