The day I made this risotto, three loads of washing dried in record time, the air was heavily scented with jasmine and I had an urge to spring clean. This meal at the end of such a productive day only confirmed my instinct to turn my face to the sun and embrace the promise of bounty ahead.
There is something imperceptibly heart warming about food choices at this time of year. Just one or two weeks into September and early spring produce is already on the shelves. It’s impossible not to think of lighter food that takes advantage of these fresh green beauties, no matter if the weather hasn’t really sorted itself out.
Rather than weigh the whole affair down with lots of parmesan and cooking the rice to a gelatinous mass, I’ve erred on the side of fresh green produce – lots of it. There is almost double what I would normally put in a risotto, reducing the need for extra rice. It is satisfying without the clogging effect on our stomachs. It’s ideal if you want to walk it off in the lengthening spring evenings. Jasmine scented air is optional.
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small red capsicum, de-seeded and finely diced
- 30g butter
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- 1 Litre (4 cups) hot chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 150g green beans, topped and tailed and cut into 3cm pieces
- 100g snow peas, trimmed and cut diagonally into 5mm strips
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1 large zucchini
- zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
- sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
- a few shaved pieces parmesan cheese, to serve
Melt the butter in a large saucepan pan over a low heat. Add the onion, garlic and capsicum and sauté for 5 minutes until the onion softens and becomes translucent.
Stir in the rice, coating the grains in the buttery mixture, and cook for a couple of minutes until the grains become translucent and ‘pop’. Heat the stock in another saucepan, keeping it at simmering point.
Turn up the heat under the risotto and add a little stock. Allow it to bubble up, stirring the rice until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladleful of the hot stock. Stir the rice until all the stock has been absorbed, then add another ladleful of stock and carry on stirring.
Continue doing this until the rice is creamy and tender but is al dente – this will take about 20 minutes. You may not need all the stock, but equally you may have to add extra hot water.
While rice is cooking, prepare the zucchini. Trim the ends of the zucchini, then cut in quarters, lengthways. Cut each strip in half lengthways, then each strip into 3cm pieces, so the zucchini is roughly the same length and size as the beans. (This will help all the vegetables cook evenly.)
As soon as the rice reaches the desired consistency, add the beans, snow peas, spinach leaves, zucchini, lemon zest and grated parmesan. Stir to incorporate then remove the pan off the heat and cover with a lid for 2 minutes to cook the vegetables.
Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve the risotto with extra parmesan or a few more spinach leaves scattered over the top.
$11.20 for four people