Creamy Broad Bean and Herb Risotto

This is one of the recipes DonQui Oaty worked on during his cookery course. Fresh broad beans  (fava beans on the other side of the Atlantic) are in season now. Therefore it is the perfect time for DonQui to try it out at home?

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One of the first tips DonQui learned on his course was that everything should be mise en place place (put in place) before hand. Now DonQui is a pretty messy, slightly chaotic, cook. His usual method is to get stuck in right away with the result that he is often searching for a key ingredient at a critical moment. This time he resolves to get everything together and it greatly simplifies the cooking process and takes out avoidable stress.

Ingredients:
1 shallot finally chopped. Half a small white onion could be substituted but will not give quite as tasty a result.
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced or crushed
A good splash of white wine
1 litre of chicken, veal or vegetable stock. Try to avoid standard stock cubes as these tend to be over-salted. Liquid unsalted stock or low salt cubes dissolved in hot water are best as you can always add more salt but you cannot take it out.
150g Carnaroli or Arborio risotto rice
A good handful of broad beans (fresh or frozen)
Grated parmesan cheese to taste
Zest of 1 lemon
A squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons mascarpone (Northern Italian creamy cheese). It may be possible to use other cream cheeses as long as they are mild and very creamy — or mixed with cream.
A bunch of finely chopped fresh herbs — mint, chives, parsley and (optional) tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter and (optional) olive oil for cooking

The Rice

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Carnaroli is considered by many to be the best rice for risotto not only because of its flavour but also because it produces a creamy risotto while each grain holds its shape and texture. Arborio is the most widely available risotto rice and a package labelled simply as risotto rice will be Arborio. It makes a good risotto but can turn if overcooked. DonQui has heard that Vialone Nano (from Northern Italy) is an excellent short grained rice for risotto but he has not yet tried it himself. Apparently it is never grown with chemicals, cooks more quickly than Carnaroli and produces an equally creamy result.

Preparing the Broad Beans
Pod the beans if using fresh ones. Blanch them in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Drain and plunge them immediately in cold water to stop the cooking process and quickly cool them.

IMG_1307-2Removed the outer husk of each bean and set them aside. The easiest way of doing this is pinch off the top of the husk and squeeze gently from the bottom so that the inner bean pops out. This can be a tedious process and it helps to have a willing helper. Although it is possible to use the beans without husking them, but they taste and look better without them.

Making the Risotto

IMG_1308 3Gently fry the minced shallot and garlic in butter or a combination of butter and olive oil for 2-3 minutes in a deep pan over a medium heat. They should be translucent — not browned. Add a pinch of salt during the process as this helps to break down the shallot/garlic.   Meanwhile bring the stock up to the boil in a separate saucepan and keep on a very low simmer off to one side.

IMG_1309 2.JPGAdd the rice to the pan with the shallot and garlic and toast for a couple of minutes, stirring it all about so that the ingredients are well mixed.

IMG_1311 3Add the white wine to the rice and allow it to reduce by half. Then add the hot stock one ladle at a time and gently stir it in.  Do not add more until the first ladleful is absorbed. Doing it this way keeps the cooking process going (adding cold stock would stop it), and takes the surface starch off the rice which dissolves into and thickens the cooking liquid.

Keep the pan on a low heat throughout so that bubbles in the liquid break the surface but not that it boils vigorously.  This should take around 15 minutes, maybe a little longer. The rice will be done when it soft but still has some bite to it so taste it as you get close to the time. It may not take all the stock to do this. On the other hand, if you find yourself without enough, put on the kettle and add boiling water a little bit at a time.

IMG_1315 3When the rice is done, taste for salt and stir in the mascarpone, lemon juice and zest. When well mixed add the broad beans, parmesan cheese and most of the herbs.

IMG_1319 2Serve with freshly ground black pepper and a garnish of the remaining herbs on top — extra pepper and parmesan cheese on the side for those who like more.

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