Take a Walk on The Wild Side

Ham Risotto with Green Pureee

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.

To pick nettle tops take rubber gloves and a plastic carrier bag to put them in

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

Serves 4

Puree Ingredients

  • 500g nettle tops
  • 100mls double cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 small onion
  • ¼ nutmeg grated

Risotto Ingredients

  • 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
  1. Start by washing the nettle tops in lots of water, drain in a colander.
  2. Chop the onion finely, melt butter in a pan large enough to hold the nettles.
  3. Soften onion in butter. Add nettles, put lid on pan and leave to cook 10 mins.
  4. When the nettles are cooked check there isn’t any liquid left in the pan, if there is raise heat to dry through.
  5. Using a stick blender, blast to a smooth puree, stir in cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Divide nettle puree between bowls, make an indentation in the puree and spoon in a mound of risotto, sprinkle over remaining cheese and herbs.

Nettle Puree

Stir herbs and pecorino into risotto

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