It was my Daddy’s 70th birthday on Friday so the whole family headed off to our favourite restaurant for lunch on Sunday to celebrate. It’s a place called Elizabeth’s in Rochester, Kent. It has very fond memories for me – we went there for my 5th birthday when I had requested to go out for a “posh” meal somewhere grown ups go. I don’t remember that much about the meal other than the pudding – I couldn’t make my mind up what to have so the lovely Italian waiter gave me some of everything! To this day, I am a sucker for flirtatious Italian waiters but even more so for a menu which has one of those “little bit of everything” options for pudding – I think it has a French name but I can’t think what it is right now!
Unfortunately, Sunday’s menu didn’t offer me that, although on reflection, with my ever expanding waistline it’s probably just as well! It did however offer me a fabulous wild garlic, gruyere and pine nut risotto for a starter. I have to say I had never thought of putting any of those three things in a risotto and it was absolutely delicious. The rest of the meal was good too but I’ve been thinking about the risotto ever since and it inspired me to try this nasturtium leaf and pine nut risotto invention.
The wild garlic in my garden has finished for the year and I didn’t have any gruyere so I had to put my thinking cap on. I’ve been trying to think about what to do with my burgeoning crop of nasturtium leaves, I generally end up using only the flowers in salads and tempura. In the picture, I have served the risotto by packing it into a shallow dish and then tipping it out onto a bed of nasturtium leaves (I do have a lot to get through!). If you don’t have nasturtiums, wild garlic would work just as well as would wild rocket although I would add that after the cheese. The ones I have this year are about 4 inch diameter, if yours are smaller, then just use more of them, the smaller ones aren’t any more intense in flavour.
To make the chiffonade, lay the leaves on top of each other and then roll into a tight cigar shape and slice thinly.
I have departed from using metric measurements for this recipe for a very good reason, that reason being that my electronic scales need a new battery, so I have opted for American style cup measures instead. Oh and I didn’t have any white wine either so I did a Nigella and used white vermouth – I’m sure either would suffice. I think that is probably the single most useful tip I’ve gleaned from watching her TV shows.
1/2 cup risotto rice
1/2 cup bacon lardons
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
500ml hot chicken stock
1/2 cup white vermouth (or white wine)
Good pinch saffron (I left it in the vermouth for a few minutes)
1/3 cup grated cheddar (I used mild)
6 large nasturtium leaves, cut into chiffonade
1/3 cup garlic and herb Boursin (I didn’t actually measure this into a cup but eyeballed it – I imagine it would be about 75g as it was half a 150g pack!)
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1. Fry the lardons in their own fat until crisp in a deep sauté pan then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Drain off and reserve the fat.
3. Toast the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds in the pan until the pine nuts are golden and the pumpkin seeds begging to “pop” then remove them too and set aside.
4. Return about a tablespoon of the bacon fat to the pan and over a low heat, fry the dry rice for about 2 minutes.
5. Turn up the heat a little and add about 100ml of the stock together with the white vermouth and start gently stirring.
6. Keep adding the rest of the stock gradually, keeping back about 50ml, gently stirring until it has absorbed into the rice.
7. Add the nasturtium leaves, bacon, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds and stir through for about a minute.
8. Add the cheddar and the remaining stock and stir through until the stock is absorbed and then stir in the Boursin and chives. Once the Boursin has dissolved into the mixture, it’s ready to serve.
Serving suggestion: sitting outside in the sun with a large glass of Prosecco!