I love borlotti beans. I love their creaminess. Every year I try and grow more and more of them. I dream of turning over half the sheep fields to borlotti!
I love them so much that I have even stopped going to a really quite nice gastro pub near us because of them. Well, indirectly because of them. We went for lunch and they had a dish of fish (I forget which type) served with fresh borlotti and cockles in a broth. I ordered it. I ordered it because of the fresh borlotti beans. When it came everything was delicious apart from the beans which were hard, uncooked and disappointing. When the owner came over to ask if everything was OK I spoke up. I used to be too embarrassed to answer truthfully, but now I’m not. I told him the dish was good but the beans were rather hard and seemed undercooked. I did all this in a typical English way with lots of apologies and lovely feedback about other bits of the dish.
The undercooked beans, by the way, aren’t the reason I won’t be going back. The reason I’m not going back is what he said next. He looked at me and said ‘oh so you prefer your beans to be a little more cooked than normal’. No, I prefer them to be actually cooked. I really don’t like bullet-like beans. But more than that I don’t like being patronised. I think I have a pretty good idea what undercooked, cooked and overcooked food looks like.
The beans in this dish are properly cooked so they are soft and creamy and delicious. Of course if you prefer hard, little beans then feel free to cook them for less time – after all maybe I am wrong, maybe they are meant to feel as if you are eating stones!
Among the beans I had left to dry on the plant I managed to find enough vaguely fresh borlotti beans so I didn’t soak them.
This dish is adapted from The River Cafe Green Book which is a lovely book. You could leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock and then it would be vegetarian and still delicious.
Borlotti Risotto: two handfuls of risotto rice; chicken stock; some pancetta or bacon cut into small dice; onion – chopped; couple of sticks of celery; olive oil; couple of handfuls of borlotti beans – if they are dried you might want to soak them overnight; 50g or so of butter; 2 tbs of rosemary chopped; Parmesan; to cook the beans some water, a stick or two of celery and an onion.
Put the beans on to cook in a saucepan with water covering them and an onion and couple of sticks of celery. Meanwhile very gently fry, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, the diced pancetta – don’t let it colour. Add in the chopped onion and finely chopped celery stick (or two) and cook for another few minutes. Add 1 tbs of the rosemary and the rice. Stir to coat in the oil. Slowly start to add hot stock to the rice a little at a time, stirring to stop it sticking. To be honest I don’t sit and baby risotto, I bop around and do other things, but I check on it every now and again.
Smash the remaining 1 tbs of rosemary with 50g of butter and a tsp of salt in a pestle and mortar and make rosemary butter – yum.
Once the beans are cooked, drain them and puree half in a liquidiser or food processor. Once the risotto is nearly cooked add the pureed beans. Keep gently cooking until it is done, then add in the rest of the whole beans and stir in the rosemary butter and a large handful of Parmesan.
Serve with more Parmesan sprinkled on top.
The next day we had the leftovers with broccoli and fried duck eggs.
N.B. I have to admit my rosemary came from the shop. This is because although it is really difficult to kill a rosemary bush, especially on the sandy soil we have here; and despite the fact that the bush I had was huge and thriving, it turns out if you hack at it regularly enough for no apparent reason with a hedge cutter, it will finally die – thanks James! Of course I could plant a new one, but the designated herb garden is currently under black plastic as I am trying to kill all the evil weeds that live there – I am not good at weeding.