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Tuesday, 27 March 2012


You always know when spring has arrived over here . . . that's when you can start eating your meals outdoors.

The last Monday of every month is fish and chips night!  Which just happened to be yesterday.  We have a fish and chip van visit a nearby town which is run by an English couple.  And the fish and chips are really good.  So we organised with our new neighbours that we'd go and have a little picnic.  The weather at the moment is really nice and very warm, so we packed our picnic bags with all the necessaries, knife and fork, salt and pepper, vinegar and a bottle of wine, and off we went.

We collected the goodies and then drove to a secluded little picnic table we know of. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the fish and chips - we were too hungry.  But here are the leftovers :-

and, just for a change, I got on the photos as well :-

Look at that sky!

Well, there's always a payback isn't there?  After stuffing ourselves to death last night, we decided to have a bit of moderation today.  For lunch, we had sautéed tomatoes, with young garlic out of the garden (I think! - it actually tasted just like spring onions) and herbs, topped with buffalo mozzarella and grilled until sizzling.  That was served with a side salad, all of which came from the garden.

This afternoon, I was cutting grass, during which I spotted what we'd be having for our evening meal.  And that's another sign of spring - you always know it's arrived when the nettles start to grow.  Normally at this time of year I make lots of nettle soup, but the weather has been so fantastically warm we really didn't feel like soup, so I decided to make a risotto with some fresh herbs thrown in.  If you're interested, the recipe follows. It's a very good spring tonic after the winter, especially as it contains very high amounts of iron, and lots of different vitamins, and tastes good too!  Anyway, here it is :-


4.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
5 cups good stock (I used vegetable as I don't eat meat, but chicken would be good)
2/3 cup cooked, chopped nettles *
Handful fresh herbs (i.e. chives, rocket, marjoram - or whatever you have in the garden)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Half cup Parmesan, finely grated

* the nettles should be blanched in boiling salted water for one minute.  Then remove and dunk in iced water to stop the cooking process.  Squeeze out excess water and chop finely.

Bring stock to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and cook chopped onions until softened but not coloured.

Add rice to pan and stir, allowing butter to coat the grains, then cook gently for a minute, then add the wine.  Stir until liquid has almost disappeared.  Add a ladleful of the stock, stirring.  Add more stock as it is absorbed.

When rice is cooked, and stock almost all absorbed, add nettles and herbs and stir to heat through.  Turn heat down and allow risotto to rest for about a minute.

With a wooden spoon, beat in the remaining butter and the Parmesan, stirring well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


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