Friday, 22 April 2011

A dish full of spring flavours

After such a long winter and with spring barely seeming to have sprung, we now seem to have leapfrogged most of the latter and landed straight in to the summer.

So the start of the Easter weekend meant a need to consider far lighter food than one might, just a few short weeks ago, have expected.

Perhaps it was predictable that, on a bank holiday, I woke barely half an hour later than I would for a working day. And once awake, there was no going back to sleep again.

So the coffee was brewed and Jamie’s Italy was dragged off the shelf in the hope of finding inspiration.

It followed after only a limited amount of pleasant browsing. A risotto.

Now, regular readers of this blog will possibly be a bit surprised at that, since I’m something of a risotto fan, but I’d spotted an idea for a really fresh, seasonal version of a dish that seems infinite in its versatility.

This dish used artichoke hearts, lemon and mint.

I had been meaning to go to Borough Market, but since that wasn’t due to open until noon, I pottered up to Broadway Market first with the aim of getting a few basics in. And it soon became clear that I could buy everything I needed today right there.

So, to the risotto. I didn’t follow Oliver’s recipe to the letter, using it as a general guide.

Take a large shallot and a stick of celery and chop them finely. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and pop the vegetables in to soften.

To this was added a few finely chopped cloves of fresh garlic: lovely stuff.

Pop some stock (chicken or vegetable) in a saucepan and bring it to the boil.

When the vegetables are softened, add your risotto rice (I used around two small handfuls for two people – you don’t need a lot, just around 45g per serving) and let it absorb the oil.

Then add a glug of booze – Noilly Pratt or Vermouth are perfect. It’ll fizz and hiss and give off the most glorious aromas.

Let that absorb and then start adding the bubbling stock, a ladle at a time. You don’t have to stir every single minute, but you do need to keep an eye on it.

Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

When that stock has been absorbed, add another ladle and keep on doing that until the rice has reached its capacity.

Now at this point, I usually give it up to 10 minutes with a lid on the pan and the heat turned down.

I had quartered four artichoke hearts from the deli and added these, along with a squeeze of lemon juice and some grated zest before doing just that, so that the ‘chokes had the time to warm through.

Once that’s done, add butter. I usually add a spoon of crème fraïche, but it struck me that, with the sharpness of the lemon, some sweetness would be a good balance.

Then all that remains is to tear some fresh mint into the mix, give it a gentle stir, and serve.

And that really is rather good.

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