Those of you who are risotto lovers will probably share my view that making a risotto is a wonderfully therapeutic activity. It sits alongside kneading dough in that respect – but much less aggressive!
For me the therapy comes from contemplating, for sometimes quite a long time, what might constitute this evening’s risotto.
It’s not just about using up leftovers; I think a better way to describe it is ‘foraging’. This means foraging not just through the fridge, but also through the raised beds in my garden and in the now, sadly, tatty borders.
The benefits of “green” food
I get home from a somewhat fraught office-bound day and feel the need for ‘green’- lawn, trees, veg - and, indeed, ‘green’ food. There’s something wonderfully restorative about green and white food. My other half quite often ‘puts in a bid’ (as he calls it!) for ‘green’ food. By this he means not just ‘greens’ as in ‘vegetables’ but green as in the colour – a whole plate which is green and white or shades thereof – Thai green curry for example, green pasta, pancakes with spinach, ricotta and taleggio, or my ‘Boating Chicken’ with broad beans and leeks (that’s another story…). He feels the colour makes it calmer, more digestible, more gentle on the eye and the stomach and I now get exactly where he’s coming from.
So what’s going in tonight’s green offering? I forage and find some crisp chives still with their flowers on, waving at me. Two perfectly sized courgettes – not too big, not too small, some variegated sage leaves, which the rabbits have kindly decided to leave alone and a big bunch of punchy parsley, the Italian flat leaf sort. That’s the basis. I add a handful of frozen baby broad beans, several bashed cloves of home-grown garlic (good crop this year) and a strong white onion, also from the raised beds. I didn’t have any celery, but I would have added a finely chopped stalk or two if I’d had any.
Making the risotto
I cheat on the stock – Knorr is fine, with a splash of leftover white wine and the therapy is well under way. Music while you chop, little piles of green and white ingredients ready and waiting to be added. I start with the garlic and onion, then the courgette, some of the parsley, then the rice (Vialone Nano for me) and the hot stock, little-by-little – you know the routine – the broad beans and finally the chives. I sauté up the sage leaves in a little butter and oil – they’ll be a little crispy green garnish at the end.
When it’s done, I stir in a big dollop of mascarpone to add a bit more luxuriance on a dull Monday night, the remaining parsley and chives and a spoon of grated Parmesan. Then I leave it in peace for just a minute or two.
The consistency is a fundamental part of the therapeutic quality of this food. It mustn’t be sticky and solid, it should be smooth and shakeable. What does this mean? Put two ladles of risotto on a warmed, flat plate ( I never use a pasta bowl for risotto). Then hold the plate between your two hands and give it a little shake. If the consistency is right, it will easily spread itself out in a creamy, green-flecked slick – not liquidy as such, but with a bit of a run to it. Fab! – put on the crispy sage leaves and enjoy. “Lupton Cottage Green Risotto”
‘Best yet’, my partner declares, ‘so comforting’. I agree, but for me the comfort factor – the therapy – was and is, as much about the green foraging as the eating.