Pancetta, pea and broad bean risotto

Risotto can be tricky. What perhaps makes it tricky is the fact that you pretty much have to stand over the stove from start to finish, which might sound tedious but in fact can be soothing and ultimately all encompassingly delicious. In truth, it's a balancing act. You don't want to overcook the rice but at the same time undercooked rice is pretty vile. Al dente might be one of the most overused phrases in cooking at present but unfortunately I have no description at my disposal that can better explain the desired texture. It'll probably be trial and error the first few times you cook it and your own personal taste also comes into it. I also hate any risotto that resembles or tastes like rice pudding - bleugh! My preference is not to use cream and instead get that velvety loveliness often associated with a good risotto through a different measure, namely: air!

I love Anthony Bourdain's programme No Reservations: . He, of course, is the main attraction but the food and countries featured never fail to expand my cooking horizons. It was whilst watching the Venice edition of No Reservations, which focused on a restaurant that apparently makes thee best risotto in the world, that I discovered a fantastic risotto tip! Now, I can't confirm the 'best risotto in the world' claim having not actually eaten at this establishment myself, however, it certainly looked impressive from where I was sitting. No Reservations isn't exactly a cookery programme although if you pay enough attention there are some amazing tips, techniques and insights to be had. So, when I witnessed that Venetian chef flipping the risotto in the air a lightbulb went off in my head and ever since my risottos have been creamier than ever without having to compromise my waistline;)

I'm not brave enough and my wrist action isn't adept enough to truly flip that risotto, so I have to rely on my wooden spoon. It's almost a folding action I have adopted but the main objective is to keep it moving. Try not to leave it unattended for too long. Of course, the parmesan is essential but in my opinion butter is entirely optional. I think it's important not to compromise taste at the expense of calories and I'm totally against substitutes - let it be known that 'low fat' is nonsense - yet if you want to enjoy good food every day of the week it's not a great idea if it's laden with fat. Again, it's a balancing act, and so we finish where we began.


1 onion

1 courgette

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen broad beans

150g pancetta

1 cup arborio rice

2/3 large cloves garlic

chicken/vegetable stock cube

large handful grated parmesan

salt and pepper

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the stock cube. Once it boils bring the temperature back down to barely a simmer.

Heat a tablespoon of oil and a knob of butter in a frying pan/skillet. Finely dice the onion and add to the pan. Season and allow to sweat for several minutes. Add garlic and cook very gently for another few minutes. Add pancetta and fry until throughly cooked before adding courgette.

Whilst the ingredients are cooking in the pan boil a kettle. In two separate bowls add the peas and broad beans. Pour boiling water over the veg until it is no longer frozen. Drain the broad beans and take the skins off each one - a little time consuming but believe me it'll be worth it!

Add rice to pan and allow to cook in the oil and juices, ensuring every grain is coated. After a few minutes ladel on some stock. The stock should just cover the ingredients. Remember to get as much air in as you can through continuous stirring/flipping (however brave you are!). You could lightly lift it as you stir to achieve this effect. When the liquid has been soaked ladel on some more and repeat until the rice is almost cooked.

At this stage add the peas and broad beans - these just need warmed through. One more ladel of stock should do it but you will be the best judge of this. Taste and season throughout.

At the very end toss in the parmesan and stir through. Leave a little aside for sprinkling on top.

Season and serve:)