Nettle Risotto with Goats Cheese
Based on a classic Italian recipe, risotto alle ortiche, this dish celebrates the delicate, herbal sweetness of fresh young nettles (note that nettles should not be consumed once the plant has flowered). Our version adds the creamy sharpness of goats cheese, but you can just sprinkle with extra parmesan at the table.
- About 150g (roughly 4 pints*) of fresh young nettle tops
- 1 banana shallot or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
- 200g risotto rice
- 40g unsalted butter
- 750ml vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
- 100g soft goats cheese
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Wearing gloves, carefully pick over the nettles and remove and discard the stems. Wash the leaves plenty of cold water and drain them in a colander.
- Pour the stock into a pan and bring to a rolling boil. Add the nettles and cook at a steady boil for 5 minutes then, using a slotted spoon, scoop the leaves into the colander and rinse them under cold running water to preserve their colour.
- Over a bowl to catch the water, squeeze the nettles leaves briefly to get rid of excess moisture. Turn the stock down to a low simmer. Pour the green juice that came out of the leaves into the pan of simmering stock. Chop the blanched nettles leaves finely and set aside.
- Melt half the butter in a wide, medium-sized pan. Add the chopped shallot and cook gently without colouring for about five minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat in the butter. Cook for a couple of minutes until the rice grains start to turn translucent and smell nutty.
- Add a ladleful of stock to the pan of rice and stir gently. The stock will be quickly absorbed by the rice, at which point you should add another ladleful. Continue cooking in this way, adding stock ladleful by ladleful, stirring frequently, until the rice is cooked. The grains should be tender, but retaining some firmness, and the risotto should be still have a little liquid in it – all’onda as the Italians say, meaning oozing and creamy.
- Draw the pan off the heat and add the remaining butter, the parmesan, and the chopped nettles. Stir well, then put the lid on the pan and leave to stand for two minutes, for the flavours to meld. Stir the risotto vigorously (to enhance its creamy texture) and taste for seasoning. Dish up the risotto onto warmed plates, scatter with crumbled goats cheese, and serve immediately.
*We use empty, washed yogurt pots as a handy collection container when picking nettles. The large ones (450ml, roughly a pint in old measures) are useful for gauging how much to pick: four large yogurt pots, filled but not packed down tight, is about right for this recipe.
Recipe and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK