Wild Garlic, Nettle and Hairy Bittercress Risotto
A risotto is a fantastic staple, its flexible and versatile, it can be a small, light starter laced with truffle or it can be a big, robust warming supper that will fill you up and give you a big warm cuddle.
At this time of the year with spring in the air but also a bit of a nip a big bowl of risotto is the perfect way to end a day’s food foraging.
For an early spring risotto pick what you can find, in this case, Wild Garlic, Hairy Bittercress and Nettles.
If you’ve not eaten Hairy Bittercress before you might not expect the beautiful peppery flavour it can impart, much like rocket or water cress. The plant is small and consists of a central stem with small rounded leaflets on either side, the young plants with the first leaves on are the most prized for flavour and texture.
Wild Garlic, or Ransoms can often be founded in shaded woodland in early to late spring and is the foragers best friend. Long lasting, tasty and abundant it can be used it all sorts of dishes. Nettles, the gardeners nemesis are too often overlooked as a food. They taste like a strong spinach due to the high iron content in them and are exceptionally good for you but make sure you just pick the tips which are new growth as they are the youngest and most tender to eat.
You will need:
- A small bunch of Wild Garlic
- A couple of large handfuls of Nettles
- A handful of Hairy Bittercress
- Arborio risotto rice
- Chicken stock (you can use vegetable)
- Small glass of white wine
- Parmesan cheese (couple of handfuls of grated cheese)
Pull it together.
Firstly prepare your greens.
Wash and trim the stalks from the Wild Garlic and finely slice the leaves by rolling them up and cutting them with a sharp knife. Chop the stems into 1cm pieces.
Wash your Nettle tips and pop them into a pan of boiling water, cook for 3mins then drain into a sieve.
Wash and pick the leaves from your Hairy Bittercress and leave them to drain dry.
Put a generous knob of butter and a slug of olive oil into a pan and warm over a medium heat, tip in the chopped Wild Garlic Stems and fry for 30 seconds to infuse the oil with their flavour. Add three large handfuls of Arborio risotto rice and stir to coat it with the garlic flavoured oil.
Stir the risotto rice over a medium heat until it starts to change colour, it should go from white to a light “pearl” effect after 5 minutes or so. When the rice has changed colour turn up the heat to high and add in your glass of white wine, you can also use vermouth or marsarla for a richer, sweeter risotto. Stir the rice and wine and let the alcohol boil away before turning the heat down low.
Add a ladle of hot chicken stock to the pan and stir it round.
This is the hard part of any risotto, you really need to love it now! You will need to keep stirring the risotto until it’s cooked, adding the stock a ladle at a time as the rice soaks it all up.
Each time the pan starts looking dry you can add in some more stock and keep stirring it around, you are encouraging the rice to soak up the liquid and cook evenly whilst also helping to breakdown the starch in the rice to create a thick creamy risotto.
Keep adding your stock and stirring until the rice is cooked through. Take a piece out and have a bite, it should be firm in the middle but not crunchy.
Once the rice is cooked, take your cooked Nettles and squeeze them hard to get all the moisture out of them. Place the ball of Nettles on a chopping board and finely chop them and then add them to the rice, stir through to evenly spread the nettles, next add the chopped raw Wild Garlic leaves and stir them through. They will start to wilt and cook as the heat of the rice permeates through them.
Finally add in a couple of good handfuls of parmesan cheese and stir through the rice. At this point your risotto is coming together, there should be a rich, creamy “sauce” about the rice and an intense, rich flavour of starch and greens.
Serve the risotto in bowls, season to taste then sprinkle with the raw Hairy Bittercress leaves as garnish.
To find your nearest Food Foraging Course visit the home page where all courses are listed by county.