Lemon Courgette Risotto with Summer Herbs


This summery risotto challenges the creamy heaviness of butter and Parmesan with plenty of lemon zest, courgette chunks and herbs, for a meal that’s filling without being unpalatably rich.

Risotto needs a lot of attention if it’s going to develop that characteristic creaminess: constant stirring helps the rice to become starchy and sticky, and the liquid needs to be added gradually. That said, I quite like the catharsis that comes with this kind of hands-on cooking – by the time the risotto is ready you’ll have an aching arm and a gleefully hearty appetite.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons pine nuts
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium courgettes
4 spring onions, finely sliced
300g arborio risotto rice
125ml dry white wine
1.3–1.4 litres hot vegetable or chicken stock
Zest of 3 lemons
75g butter, chilled and diced
75g Parmesan, finely grated
Small handful each of basil, parsley and mint leaves, all finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4.

Spread the pine nuts over a baking tray and toast in the oven for 8–10 minutes, until lightly toasted and a shade or two darker. You can toast the nuts while the risotto’s cooking if you prefer but they’re prone to burning, so unless you’re a good multitasker, I find it safest to get them done first.

Heat a little of the oil in a frying pan, dice two of the courgettes into cubes no bigger than 1cm or so across, and fry for 5 minutes until they’re tender but still with some bite. Set aside to cool. Coarsely grate the remaining courgette.

In a large pan, heat the remaining oil then fry the spring onions for 2–3 minutes to soften. Add the risotto rice and stir to coat it in the oil, then pour in the wine and cook until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed and the alcohol has cooked off. Now for the hard graft: add the hot stock a ladleful at a time, stirring the risotto continuously at it cooks. As soon as most of the stock has been absorbed, it’s time to add another ladleful, stir and repeat. After 15 minutes or so have passed, all of the stock should have been added and the rice should be creamy and thick.

Add the fried courgette cubes, grated courgette and lemon zest and cook for a further 2–3 minutes, then remove from the heat and beat in the butter, Parmesan and herbs. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of the toasted pine nuts on top of each portion.

  ©Charlotte Bland, 2015

©Charlotte Bland, 2015