I ended up having quite a disastrous year at the allotment: Too many unplanned jobs arose through the key seed-sowing time. That, plus stories from our allotment neighbours of mice decimating their ground-sown peas and beans, led me to never quite getting around to planting enough in time. I did, however, manage to sow enough field beans (var. ‘Wizard’).
What a star crop! They fared better than the few longpod broad beans in the ground through the drought, and were less scarred by the winds a few weeks back. They are smaller than standard broad beans, but are prolific and taste fabulous. What’s more, if you crop them young there is no need to remove the skins. In fact, it’s our first year of growing this crop, so I have not seen old beans – you may never need to skin this variety.
As soon as I had enough broad & field beans, we sat down to a favourite risotto:
Broad bean & lemon Risotto
1-2 handfuls de-podded field beans
Other veg from allotment, chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5oz Carnaroli or Arborio risotto rice
A good glug of dry white wine
1 pint Marigold veg stock, near boiling
1 Strip of lemon peel
1 Bay leaf and handful chopped mint
Handful herbs from garden (thyme & oregano both work)
Juice from 1/4 lemon
25 g butter/vegan equivalent
Small handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
1. Prepare the vegetables and herbs, and make the stock. Good risotto requires you to stir and add liquid gradually, so ideally you need to be ready to go before you add the rice. If you have time/space, make the stock in a pan next to the rice pan and keep it heated. Use a large, flat-bottomed pan for the rice.
3. Add the rice, lemon peel and bay leaf and stir to coat with oil. After about 30 seconds, you will hear the rice beginning to crack. Stir to make sure the rice is toasting evenly for a minute or so.
4. Add the wine. Prepare for the sizzle and steam cloud! Stir until evaporated.
5. Add 1 ladle of stock to the rice and stir, gently and consistently.
6. When the rice has absorbed the stock, add another ladleful. The stock should be hot when added, which is why it is best to have it in a pan over heat, rather than poured from a jug.
7. Add the vegetables at around this point. It takes about 20 mins for risotto, so allow 8-15 mins for the veg depending on cooking times. Field beans require about 10 mins using this method, as does courgette.
8. Keep stirring and adding a ladleful of stock when the liquid has been absorbed / evaporated. The rice and liquid should be keeping a creamy consistency by now.
9. When cooked – al dente rice and liquid gone, remove from heat. Remove the bay leaf, lemon zest and woody herbs if used. Squeeze the lemon over the rice and stir. Add the butter or vegan spread and seasoning, and stir. Do this step quickly, stirring fast to cool the rice to slow further cooking. This dish should be glistening!
10. Serve with fresh mint.
I may not make the most perfect risotto in the world; I believe it is quite an art. But the kids love it, and it’s a great Monday night dinner to finish off any white wine leftover from the weekend.
Pea and mint is another tried and tested recipe, that works ever so well with mangetout from the plot. I grow 3 varieties of mint in the herb garden; the spearmint complements the peas fantastically, and I find the chocolate mint works very well with the broad beans.