A couple of weeks ago there was balmy weather, blue skies and I was full of the joys of spring, but things took a decided turn for the worse and the last few days have been cold and blustery as well as wet..
After a day of running errands, with a sore throat and runny nose, I was feeling thoroughly disgruntled, with an evening of work on the computer stretching uninvitingly ahead of me. Maybe a nice glass of warming primitivo while I worked would make me feel better? It might well have done but, as soon as I sat down with my laptop and glass of wine, my cat decided to play his favorite attention seeking trick of walking slowly back and forth between me and the computer screen.Not feeling like playing I brushed him aside, knocking my glass of wine onto the computer keyboard. After this it is fair to say I felt considerably worse…
An hour or so later it was apparent that the laptop was a write off although the hard disk was undamaged – a huge relief as I never quite get around to backing things up.. It was going to take ages to copy everything across, so I turned my attention to supper..
Earlier in the day I had planned to eat a healthy salad but at this point I really couldn’t think of anything less tempting. We had already eaten pasta at lunchtime so that wasn’t an option and the cupboards were looking pretty bare.. The one thing I had plenty of were sponsali – a vegetable from the onion family, like a cross between spring onions and leeks. These are typically used as the filling for the ‘calzone’ – a kind if pie made with yeast raised pastry, but now I wanted something simpler. This is what I ended up with and it was surprisingly delicious, almost as healthy as my planned salad and much more satisfying….
Sponsali and Zucchini soup (would also work with half and half leeks and spring onions)
I also had four rather tired looking zucchini (courgettes) in the fridge, a carrot and huge bunch of parsley so with no great expectations at all I decided to make soup.
I chopped up six sponsali into rings, including an inch or so of the green leaves and then the zucchini into inch thick chunks ending up with equal quantities of both. The carrot was also cut into rings.I warmed a generous splash of good olive oil in a pan and just softened the vegetables slightly before adding a little parsley.I then added water to one and a half times the height of the vegetbles, covered the pan and simmered till the vegetables were just cooked adding a large handful of parsley right at the end so it wilted rather than cooked. I wanted a thick soup and zucchini are quite watery anyway so I blended the vegetables with very little of the cooking liquid to get the right consistency.
The end result was a beautiful green and very satisfying.. The next day I used the remaining cooking broth as the base for one of my favourite risottos:
Risotto with zucchini and mint – based on a recipe by Diane Seed
300 g Carnaroli or Vialone nano rice
50 g butter
1 onion finely chopped
4 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper
10/15 leaves of fresh mint
Make a stock by quickly cooking 4 or 5 zucchini in boiling, lightly salted water then blending to make a thick stock (I didn’t do this as I had my stock from the soup) and keep this simmering on a low heat
Dice 2 small zucchini and cut a further two into rings. Fry the rings in a little olive oil till golden brown and set aside.
Heat half the butter and gently cook the onion until soft. Stir in the rice and let it begin to absorb the butter before adding a ladle of stock. When this is absorbed stir in the diced zucchini and add another ladle of stock. Keep adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, taking care not to “drown” the rice, until the rice is cooked. You may have to use some boiling water if the stock runs out. The rice usually takes about 20 minutes to cook. When the rice is ready stir in the remaining butter, the cheese and the mint then beat with a wooden spoon, cover and leave to stand for five minutes. Check salt and serve with black pepper.
If you are processing the Parmesan in your food processor add the washed and dried mint leaves with the cheese. If the cheese is already grated chop the mint finely and stir into the cheese before adding to risotto. Garnish with the discs of fried zucchini