WHEN I came to Ireland in 2002, I arrived with a vision of self sufficiency and being able to feed my children the best of homegrown produce. In the following spring, we earmarked a bit of the field next door, which belonged to the house we were living in. I wanted to grow spuds, and planned to prepare a small area for them. My father-in-law, who has since passed away, announced he’d get someone to help me. Which was brilliant of him. Then this tractor arrived.
We quickly went from digging a small patch I could easily manage myself, to half a field of potato drills, which needed tending on an industrial scale! Quite some leap in growing your own, for a family who moved from an Edwardian terraced house with a tiny garden in London.
Of course, I now know that when you ask a farmer to help you grow potatoes, they will automatically plant enough to see you over a winter! As the crop matured, the kids were dispatched to the field to get their first experience of digging up the dinner.
The following year, we invested in a polytunnel, for succulents you can’t grow outside when you live high on a hill in rural Ireland. Tomatoes, peppers and chillies were duly planted, along with four courgette plants. You can’t imagine how many courgettes you get from one plant, let alone four. You’d better like courgettes! I also grew broad beans outside, my favourite of all the bean family. These days I don’t have space to grow. But I love to buy homegrown produce from the market. In memory of my first couple of years here, this Courgette and Broad Bean risotto combines Irish summer growing at its best.
Cultivating fruit is a job for the experts. I’ve got a three pots of strawberries ripening outside - enough to provide a few helpings for breakfast - if the birds don’t get them first! I once met an Irish cherry grower whose whole crop of ripe cherries was decimated overnight, when a flock of birds got in the tunnel and ate the lot! I’ve not seen any homegrown cherries yet, but there are cherries from abroad for these gorgeous Flambeed Cherries, served over ice cream.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1kg fresh broad beans in the pods
1 tbsp olive oil
Generous knob of butter
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 courgettes, trimmed and chopped
300g risotto rice Good splash dry white wine (optional)
1.5ltrs stock (approx)
Knob of butter
2 tbp freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Pod the broad beans and cook them in boiling water for about 4 minutes.
- Drain and run under a cold tap to cool, then peel off the tough outer skins, to reveal the emerald green beans inside. Reserve these.
- Heat the oil with the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet.
- Add the scallions, garlic and courgettes and cook gently over low heat, till the courgettes start to take on a little colour. You don’t want them too brown.
- Add the rice, it should hiss when it goes into the pan. Stir to coat in the mix. Cook for a minute.
- Add wine if using and let this absorb.
- Gradually add a ladle of stock from the measure and bring to bubbling.
- Turn down to a gentle simmer. Allow the stock to be absorbed, then add another ladle.
- Continue adding stock like this a little at a time, waiting for each addition to be absorbed, until the rice is tender.
- Stir risotto frequently during cooking to release the starchy content of the rice and allow it to become creamy in texture. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you want a wet consistency, you may need more stock. ( I prefer mine not too runny.) When the rice is ready, stir in broad beans, butter and Parmesan cheese. Add basil.
- Serve in warmed bowls, decorated with basil sprigs. Sprinkle with extra grated Parmesan to finish.