Spring has definitely sprung here in Adelaide. I know this because I’m sneezing like crazy and there is an abundance of peas, broad beans and asparagus at the farmers markets.
Broad bean season is always a real buzz for me because there is a very small window of opportunity to eat them fresh as their season is quite short. It’s usually in that window between the end of the winter produce and the start of the summer tomatoes and zucchs. You can buy broad beans frozen which isn’t so bad but if you can get your hands on some of those big furry pods then you should give this recipe a try. There’s a bit of work involved with shelling the beans but if you give yourself enough time it can be quite relaxing.
So the risotto…. It’s full of springtime flavours, freshly shelled peas and double peeled broad beans and some juicy, sweet asparagus spears. I used barley here instead of arborio rice because it gives a nice twist, barley has a lovely nutty flavour that goes really well with the other flavours in this dish and will cook down in the same way as risotto rice. I also decided to purée the broad beans with some mint, garlic and pesto as they can be a little too large for a delicate risotto where a mouthful should really give the full spectrum of flavour. The recipe calls for some of that lovely, fresh Dill Pesto I’ve posted before but if you don’t have any on hand then just use some fresh dill which is abundant at this time of year.
Springtime Barley Risotto
1 spring onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 tbspn butter
1 tbspn olive oil
1/2 cup pearl barley
6-8 cups veggie stock
1 cup white wine
1 bunch asparagus
broad beans in pods (about a kilo, give or take)
fresh peas in pods (about a kilo, give or take)
1 bunch mint
2 tbspns dill pesto (if you don’t have any on hand then just use a bunch of dill, finely chopped)
30g parmesan cheese
40g goats feta
Peel the peas and broad beans. Chop up the asparagus into small pieces.
Bring stock to a gentle boil in a medium-sized saucepan and keep warm.
Heat up a large heavy based pan over a low-medium flame. Add butter and oil and heat up/melt slowly.
While the butter is melting, chop up your garlic and onion. Add to the pan and cook gently for a few minutes until translucent and fragrant. Resist the urge to fry, cook it gently over a low heat until translucent and aromatic.
Add the barley and stir well to coat with the onion, garlic and oil mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes.
Add wine and cook down.
Add a ladle of stock to the pan and stir through. Cook over a low-medium heat until the stock is absorbed.
Repeat this step several times until your risotto is cooked. The barley will be slightly chewy when cooked.
While your risotto is cooking bring a small-medium sized pan of water to a boil. Add the broad beans and boil for 2 minutes.
Drain and rinse under cold water, then peel off the white layer. Use your thumb nail to break the skin and then gently squeeze the bright green bean out.
Add 2/3s of the beans to your blender with a ladle of stock and blend to a purée. Add the pesto here as well as 2/3s of the mint, blend well and season to taste.
Return to your risotto. There will be some stock left over, add the peas and asparagus to the stock and boil for a couple of minutes until tender but still firm.
Drain and refresh under cold water.
Finely chop the remaining mint.
Turn off the heat and add the pureed broad beans, peas and asparagus and chopped mint. Stir through well.
Add a tablespoon of butter, the parmesan and goats feta. Stir through well and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Check for seasoning and then serve.