Monday, 2 July 2012

Gardening and strawberry risotto

I've taken up gardening.

Although I'm not sure it can be called gardening in my case - more 'balconing' as we don't have a garden, just a large walkway/balcony - but it's true what all those irksome TV chefs with 7 acres of land say; you can still do a lot with a small space.

This year's balcony crop rotation is:
Mini Carrots
Salad leaves
Various flowers which I don't know the name of

None of this is because I enjoy it you understand.  I am merely preparing for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.  Whilst you suckers are all having your faces gnawed off, I will be sat up on the first floor, tucking into a grand crop of approximately seven tomatoes, three courgettes, a few peas and more mint than you can shake a stick at, which will hopefully tide me over until it's all calmed down.  Or at least I can have a nice meal, get smashed on mojitos and take the 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' approach.

The sad fact is that I do actually quite enjoy growing stuff, but it all comes as part of the gradual, sinking realisation that I am turning into my mother.  Obviously I knew this would happen one day, but I thought I could at least hold out till 30.  Nope.  I garden, I wear stripy tops, I like blue and white crockery and spend a lot more time talking about the size of my bottom than I do trying to rectify it.  And, most worryling, the other day the Archers came on and I didn't turn it off straight away (you may ask what I was doing listening to Radio 4 anyway - I was listening for news of zombie apocalypse, duh). SOMEONE PUT ME IN A BOOB TUBE AND TAKE ME OUT FOR TEQUILLA SLAMMERS, RIGHT AWAY.


Anyway, whilst we've not actually eaten anything from the garden yet I am very proud of the little space.  Almost verging on obsessive; I sometimes find myself just staring at the plants trying to work out if they've grown, or standing there in amazement, mouthing 'Would you look at that, there's tomatoes on my tomato plants!'. The overlooking neighbours must think I'm barmy.  Probably doesn't help that I'm usually in my pyjamas.

Strawberry Risotto
I don't grow strawberries on the balcony, but if I did I would certainly use them to make the below.  Seamless link, I'm sure you'll agree?  Yeah, strawberries in a risotto, bit out there, might not be your thing, but I think it's pretty swell.  I first tried tried it last year at 15, Jamie Oliver's restaurant, and mainly ordered it because I hoped it would be disgusting and then I could go on about how stupid and deluded Jamie Oliver is. Unfortunately for my cynical side it was really nice, and so I've tried to recreate it. 

Serves 2

1 small white onion, finely chopped
Slug of oil or butter
200g risotto rice
1 glass of white wine
200g strawberries, chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (unfortunately you need the fairly decent stuff - by which I mean more than 99p a bottle - otherwise it's too acidic)
Stock cube (chicken or veg)
Handful of torn basil
Large handful parmesan

Firstly, put your chopped strawberries in a bowl, cover with the vinegar and allow to macerate for about 20 mins.  In the meantime, fry your onions in oil until softened. Add in your rice and stir till coated, then slosh in your glass of wine.  Once the wine has cooked off, add your stock cube then add water bit by bit and let the rice gradually absorb it. About half way through the cooking process add your strawberries.  Once the rice is softened and has absorbed all the liquid, throw in a handful of torn basil leaves and most of the parmesan. Season. Give a good stir then serve with more parmesan.

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