Allotment free it’s easy to get down to guiltless supermarket shopping for a plastic pouch of immaculately trimmed greenery. But I still have the urge to get out there into the spring sunshine to see what’s growing. I am into foraging mode. Leave the winter rut behind, get out there off piste.
I have a want for living freshness, the mineral greenness of nettles. Hearing I was off on a mission to find nettles for supper, a friend remarked, ‘this foraging lark is all very well, it’s lucky you have a well-stocked fridge, it will be worth eating.’ He was right, getting my green hit from nettles was worth the picking, delicious as well as frugal, they need help from a good larder. Though the £3 saving on a couple of supermarket packs of spinach, was a bonus not to be sniffed at, it was about shaking off the winter into an outside groove for spring.
If you don’t know the plants in the recipe, use a book with photographs to identify them, Roger Philips’ beautiful books have been my bible and inspiration forever.
I used pudding rice in the risotto, a deviation from Arborio, that’s all I had in, try it for an different textural experience, softer and creamier. Sometimes it’s good to try new things, barley’s good for a more nubbly, chunky experience and very frugal.
This is rich, a little goes a long way, serve with green salad with a fresh lemony dressing.
Smoked Ham Risotto with Green Puree
- 500g nettle tops
- 100mls double cream
- Salt and pepper
- Knob of butter
- 1 small onion
- ¼ nutmeg grated
- 150g pudding rice
- 200ml dry white wine
- 100g smoked ham
- 700ml well flavoured ham or chicken stock
- 50g grated pecorino cheese
- 2tbl chopped garlic chives
- Knob of butter
- Start by washing the nettle tops in lots of water, drain in a colander.
- Chop the onion finely, melt butter in a pan large enough to hold the nettles.
- Soften onion in butter. Add nettles, put lid on pan and leave to cook 10 mins.
- When the nettles are cooked check there isn’t any liquid left in the pan, if there is raise heat to dry through.
- Using a stick blender, blast to a smooth puree, stir in cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
- Meanwhile melt knob butter in a large sauté pan, add chopped ham, fry to brown slightly. Add rice and stir to coat with butter, cook for a couple of minutes ‘til translucent.
- Stir in a ladle of stock, as it gets absorbed add more stock. The risotto needs to be creamy rather than dry, if there isn’t enough stock finish off with a little water.
- After about 15 mins the rice will be creamy and cooked, stir in half the cheese and garlic chives, check seasoning, add freshly ground salt and pepper.
- Divide nettle puree between bowls, make an indentation in the puree and spoon in a mound of risotto, sprinkle over remaining cheese and herbs.