SEASON’S GREENS The sweetness of the peas and succulence of the broad beans complement the saltiness of the parmesan and bite of white wine in this risotto.
Our polytunnel has seen better days. There’s a large rip in one side. Hedge cuttings temporarily inserted one year were never moved and have now turned into a bit of a jungle. Okay, a full jungle. Giant clematis is threatening to bring the roof down. Hands up. But it is a magical thing, full of flowers as well as veg … A target for lounging felines and hungry hens.
Best of all, it’s a playground for the children, where they sow seeds and forage around the beanstalks for their own food. Even weeds can be fun! I don’t think a single pea has ever made it as far as the kitchen! Still, ever hopeful, I was planting peas and beans at the weekend, and it got me thinking of summer dishes.
Even though broad beans and peas grow very easily here, you won’t necessarily find them in the supermarkets. Try and grow your own – it’s rewarding. It’s too late for seeds now, but grab a few ready-to-grow seedling plugs from a garden centre. You don’t need a polytunnel or a field. Stick them in a pot – a patio or balcony will be plenty big. Give them bamboo sticks to cling to. Fasten the vines on. You can buy clips at the garden centre or cut-up old tights will do the job. In a couple of months, you’ll have your own crop!
If you don’t get around to this, the vegetable stall Glasaraí will be selling fresh peas and broad beans at their stall in Westport in a few months time. You should also be able to get some at your local country markets.
This summer risotto is all about soft velvety rice with a lovely crunch from the beans. In order to prepare the fresh broad beans, pick the bean pods open, add the beans into a pot of boiling water for three minutes, drain and place in cold water to blanch them. This will help loosen the tough skin that encases the flesh. Gently scrape and squeeze the skin off each bean. Depod the peas too (trying not to eat them all!) – these can be used raw, without blanching.
What you need
- 175g risotto rice
- 100g butter in chunks
- 1 white onion
- 1 glass of white wine
- 600ml veg stock
- 200g fresh peas (podded)
- 200g broad beans
- 50g grated parmesan
- Good glug of good olive oil
What you do
Heat the oil to a good-sized pot, and add a quarter of the butter to melt, being careful not to burn it. Add the risotto rice. Make sure each grain of rice is covered in butter. Mix for a minute or two, stirring. Add the glass of wine steadily. Allow it to evaporate – this will take a couple of minutes, condensing the flavours. Then start adding the stock, slowly, ladle by ladle. Keep stirring the risotto and adding the stock for around 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked.
At the end, add in the blanched, de-skinned beans and the raw peas. Stir and heat through. Add the Parmesan and the rest of the butter just before serving (you don’t want the parmesan going stringy), and stir through. Season with salt and pepper to taste – and serve!
Risotto apart, broad beans are always lovely as a side dish, hot or cold. They are nice with vinaigrette, and great in a salad. For a special snack, why not put a bowl of peas in their pods on the table and let everyone shell their own? Sweet.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.