There's something about Springs' green shoots that gets me all excited! I do suffer a little through the long English winter. It's just all a bit the same - grey, muddy, damp and cold - nothing extreme or dramatic. I almost long for deep crisp snow. No doubt it comes at a price and I should be thankful for our mild climate here on the South coast. But as soon as I see the green shoots of Spring, I can see an end to the dreary days and my spirits lift.
Thoughts turn to planting (just a few of last years blooms above) - I'm still waiting for my Sarah Raven seed catalogue, no doubt she has been inundated with requests in response to her brilliant series on re-introducing insects to our green and pleasant land. I have to say our garden was buzzing last year with insects and butterflies, thankfully my slightly haphazard gardening and preference for traditional English cottage garden varieties seems to be doing the trick for our local winged companions.
And cooking, of course. I had a request from my friend Joanne at Positive PR to join her in a sort of recipe 'round robin'. The prospect of receiving 36 new recipes spurred me on and despite a little nervousness about having to submit my recipe to the lovely Giles Henschel, genius behind Olives et al, I finally penned my trusty risotto recipe. I introduced you to The Sicilian's rather fabulous pancetta in my last post, so here it is put to delicious use:
Such a simple recipe, one I learnt from Dottore Vidotti (an eminent Venetian cardiologist whom I taught English to whilst studying in Venice many moons ago). He taught me to make this risotto with my all time favourite, radicchio di Treviso. Unfortunately, short of growing it ourselves, it's virtually impossible to get here in Dorset. We did grow some last year, and it was a great success, but we need good hard frosts, so The Sicilian opted out this season.
Risotto with Peas & Home-cured Pancetta
Ingredients:85g pancetta, cubed (The Sicilians is quite salty, hence only 1/2 a stock cube);160g frozen peas; 1/2 onion or whole shallot, finely chopped; 200g Arborio rice; 1/2 chicken stock cube; glug of extra virgin olive oil; knob of butter; splash of double cream; a splash or two of white wine; handful of grated parmesan
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on a medium heat. Add the pancetta and onion and let it take on some colour and soften. Add the rice to the pan and toss until lightly toasted. At this point pour over the wine and allow to evaporate. Whilst this is all happening, bring 800ml of water to the boil in a separate pan, add the peas and chicken stock cube. Once the wine has pretty much evaporated, add half of the stock and whatever peas go with it (You can add the peas later, but I quite like them soft on this occasion). Turn the heat down to low. Stir occasionally, be careful not to let too much of the liquid evaporate before adding more - I add mine in two batches, which means I don't have to stand constantly and stir.
Once the rice is al dente (or as you like it cooked - takes approximately 20 minutes from adding the stock), take it off the heat and add the butter and cream. Stir vigorously to release the starch and allow the butter to melt through the risotto and thicken it. Serve sprinkled with parmesan and a big glass of chilled white wine!
And a Spring post wouldn't be complete without a Spring spurt of crochet - yes, I've finished my green scarf, just in time for some Spring daffodils to grace the photo!
Two balls of beautiful Rowan 'kidsilk' Haze (shade, appropriately called 'Garden', 645) and a size 4mm crochet hook. Many hundreds of long double crochets later (I think they call them Solomons knots, but will have to look in to that?!) and voila, just gorgeous and bright on a beautiful Spring morning xxx