Growing up, you could say we were somewhat adventurous eaters. Our family has always eaten a wide variety of vegetables (no picky eaters at our table!) and my brother and I acquired a taste for olives rather early on in our lives. My mom is fond of recalling how the two of us (still preschool and early primary school at that stage) used to pick all the olives out of the salad before the other guests even arrived at the table. What? It was good. And quite frankly, at the age of 6, etiquette was the last thing on my mind.
I also vividly remember how my dad (a big lover of all things spicy) introduced us to our first chili pepper. I was about 9 and my brother 8 and to us it looked just like a green (bell)pepper. So, without hesitation, we took a big bite. Only to splutter mere seconds later and start gasping for air as the capsaicin hit our tastebuds. Our mouths were on fire, and when my mom saw what had happened, a few other things were almost on fire too...
When aubergines started to become trendy in the 1990's, my mom didn't hesitate to jump on the bandwagon and to this day she makes a mean ratatouille. The arrival of broadbeans (fava beans) in our house was met with raised eyebrows. My dad had seen them at our local veggie shop, and always keen to try new things (especially if they're cheap - my dad is a bargain hunter of note) he bought a big bunch of 'em. Leaving my mom to try and figure out what the heck to do with them.
Back in the day broadbeans (fava beans) weren't the sexy little things that they are today and my poor mom had no clue how to prep them. Shucking didn't even enter her mind and as far as I recall she gave them the same treatment she always gave regular green beans - sauteed with onion and tomato. It wasn't exactly bad, but the beans really didn't get a proper chance to shine either. How could they, when still encased in their tough outer shells?
So, when I opened up my second veggiebox last week and found a huge bunch of broadbeans (fava beans) I couldn't help but smile. Like my mom, I was in unfamiliar territory, having never cooked with them before, but I knew enough to remove them from their cotton wool-y pods, allowing the bright green beans to take centre stage.
Well, as seems to be the case with a lot of things these days, twitter sparked my creative juices even further when Sigrid announced a risotto-off. What could be better to showcase the pretty green things, than a creamy cheesy baked risotto? Add some crisp slender asparagus, shredded leeks and a smattering of dried chili peppers (to complete the trip down memory lane) and supper was starting to shape up pretty damn well.
I am submitting this to
Baked Spring Risotto
This was my first foray into baked risotto (instead of the normal stir-stir-stirring on the stovetop) and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The texture was spot on - light and creamy (perhaps slightly drier than usual) and without a hint of stodginess. And of course, it's a whole lot less effort! Highly recommended.
3 tbps olive oil
1 large leek, rinsed and sliced thinly
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups good vegetable stock
2 - 3 small dried red chilies, finely chopped
500g broadbeans (fava beans), removed from their pods
100g (approx 3 oz) asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
1/3 cup full fat cottage cheese
40g (1.3 oz) grated parmesan
1 tbsp lemon juice
1. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a medium frying pan, add the leek and saute briefly or until it looks glazed. Add the rice, stirring to coat with the oil, then add wine and cook for a minute or two until the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer to an oven proof casserole dish.
2. Pour vegetable stock onto the rice, add dried chilies and stir gently to combine; then place in the oven for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, steam your broadbeans (fave beans) for a minute or two, or until the outer casings are slightly shriveled and have turned a greyish colour. Allow to cool, then break open the casings to reveal the bright green beans on the inside. Discard casings.
4. After risotto has been in the oven for 20 minutes, stir broadbeans (fava beans), asparagus, cottage cheese, parmesan, lemon juice and 1/2 cup of water through the rice and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Serve warm, perhaps with extra lemon wedges to squeeze over.
Unlike stove-top versions of risotto, this baked version keeps extremely well in the fridge for a couple of days. Simply reheat in the microwave, adding a little bit of water if you like.