Risotto Primavera and spring musings from Winchester


Lovely spring is finally here and I've been all over Risotto Primavera.  On Easter Monday the first properly warm spring day we have had this year husband and I took a little day trip to Winchester, the ancient capital of England. My ex-boss, a lovely, lovely man, now retired, lives there and recommended it as an interesting and picturesque place full of history.

Green Risotto Primavera with parmesan
My risotto - in my eagerness to dig my fork in
I forgot about the garnishings

We started at King Alfred’s monument. The Anglo-Saxon Alfred the Great was the one who beat all those pesky Vikings and found away to coexist reasonably peacefully with them. We then had a nice walk by the river where as expected a drunken young man was swimming.
King Alfrefd's statue in Winchester
King Alfred
We had a good look at the ruins of the Wolvesey Castle. I always love a good ruin. This is where the bishops of Winchester used to live and the most unhappy Mary I and Philip of Spain held their wedding breakfast after being married in the Cathedral. Although it really is all ruins, there is still a lot to see.

We had a delicious lunch in a French bistro La Place and Froggies Bar. No froggies for us though. Husband tends to opt for a lamb shank whenever it’s on menu and I chose the Risotto Primavera to celebrate the beautiful spring day. My risotto with courgette, eggplant and yellow and green pepper and tomatoes looked absolutely gorgeous and was very creamy and tasty.

Risotto Primavera with courgette, eggplant and yellow pepper
The gorgeous risotto at La Place
Husband's shank was served with mashed potato and it was melt in the mouth soft, but I think a bit bland. It lacked seasoning and I would have liked something more with it, garlic, herb, something. “Well, this is what restaurant food is like” said husband. I interpreted that as “Your cooking is so much tastier, my angel.”

We then visited the town museum and the amazing cathedral, walked up and down the busy high street with an antiques (or maybe just second hand) market before getting take-away coffees for our drive back home.
Winchester Catherdral
Winchester catherdral
Husband has the most eclectic playlist of songs on his iPhone. There was an unseasonably robust representation of Christmas songs, the silly Leona Lewis song One more sleep always makes me cry, I don't know what it is, it's when she sings "4 more days of being lonely" that always gets me even in April it seems.

There were also some old favourites (I’m not sure whose favourites they are) like Tears on my pillow and Mack the knife (seriously). Tupac also delighted us with his poetry “I’ll never call you bitch again” and there was interesting Iranian hip hop on offer. My least favourite song was a painfully slow and long French ballad about Bonnie and Clyde, but some nice reggae music that followed made up for it. You can’t hear a steel drum and not be happy, can you!

So in honour of spring and our sunny road trip I wanted to try my own version of Risotto Primavera. As much as I liked the one at the La Place to me Risotto Primavera is made with green veggies, asparagus, peas etc. But there are so many versions depending on what vegetables and herbs you have available. I focused on asparagus, it is the season after all. I added some courgette, beans and lovely fresh herbs I just got from Homebase to plant in my garden.

Street view in Winchester

Recipe: Risotto Primavera (serves 4)

1 bunch of spring onion
2-3 shallots
2 garlic cloves
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of good dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock (or chicken if you’re not too worried about staying vegetarian)
1 cup of beans or peas
1 courgette
1 big bunch of asparagus
Fresh herbs (dill, thyme, basil, whatever you like)
1/2 - 3/4 cup parmesan
Salt and pepper
Parmesan shavings and rocket for garnish

Heat the stock in a pan. You might not need all of it or you might need more in which case just use some hot water from the kettle.

Heat oil in a pan, fry the finely chopped onions for a few minutes until translucent, add minced garlic and fry for two more minutes, add the rice and fry until the rice is hot and sizzling and then add the white wine. When wine is evaporated start adding the stock one ladle at a time, once the previous ladle is completely evaporated / incorporated add another one and keep going until rice is almost done.

Then add the thinly chopped courgette, the asparagus which you have prepped by removing the hard stalk and chopping into inch long pieces diagonally and the beans, if you are using peas you can add them a bit later as they need less cooking time.  Once the vegetables and rice are done add any fresh herb you are using, black pepper and grated parmesan. Check for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Stir until gloopy, garnish with parmesan shavings, a sprinkle of fresh herbs and rocket. Serve immediately. 

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