This recipe is an upgraded version of yesterdays 29p white bean, white wine & garlic risotto, a riff on the leftovers to make them a little more exciting. Yesterday I craved bland comforting cuddly bliss, but today, with the wind howling down the hallway of my little rickety coastal house, I wanted something sunnier and bolder to lift my mood. My first book, A Girl Called Jack, featured a mandarin and basil pasta dish based on one in Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook, a book I adore and treasure and use as inspiration time and time again for the odd vegetable lurking in the bottom of my fridge, or even with liberal interpretation for tins of carrots or white beans. The combination of tinned mandarins and savoury pesto may raise an eyebrow, but trust me on this one, it is absolutely delicious.
Served 4 generously at 43p each
1 large onion, 6p (59p/1kg, Farm Stores at Asda)
Half a bulb of garlic, 10p (60p/3 bulbs, Growers Selection at Asda)
300g plain white rice, 13p (45p/1kg, Smartprice at Asda)
100ml white wine, beer or cider (optional), 39p (£2.98/750ml, Fre Chardonnay at Asda)
1l vegetable stock, 3p (39p/12 stock cubes, Asda)
400g white beans (I used cannellini), 42p (42p/400g, Asda)
2 tbsp pesto or a generous fistful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, 22p (89p/190g, Asda)
312g tin of mandarins, 35p (35p/312g, SmartPrice at Asda)
A pinch of salt, <1p (27p/750g, Asda Table Salt)
A generous ¼ tsp black pepper, <1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)
1 tbsp lemon juice, 2p (39p/250ml, lemon juice from concentrate, Asda)
First peel and finely slice your onion, and peel and roughly chop your garlic. Toss into a large, shallow bottomed pan (I use this one). Peel the garlic cloves and add them whole, or slice any particularly chubby ones lengthways if you’re worried about them not cooking through. Add the oil (or not if you’re avoiding it, a splash of water will do) and cook on a very gentle heat for around 8 minutes to soften and knock the raw edges off.
Add the rice, and the wine (or beer or cider) if using. Turn up the heat to medium, and stir well to stop the rice from sticking and burning. Add a ladle (or splash) of stock, and stir in. Drain and thoroughly rinse the beans and add those too. Stir again – stirring is paramount, and add a splash more stock. Repeat this exercise as required; splash, simmer, stir, splash, simmer, stir, until the rice is soft and swollen and the liquid thick and soupy. This usually takes around 30 minutes for long grain rice, and can be up to 45 minutes for fancier varieties such as Arborio.
When the rice is cooked to your liking (some people like it a little al dente – that is, with a bit of ‘bite’ to it, whereas I prefer it falling apart in my mouth), stir through the pesto or basil leaves. This makes the risotto a sort of pale pistachio colour, with whispers of Springtime in this drizzly grey day. Drain the mandarins and fold them in to warm through.
Season it to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle the lemon juice over the top. Serve immediately, and enjoy. You’ll want to go heavy on the lemon juice and pepper, so bring them to the table with you and adjust as you please.
Notes: As with the white wine and white bean risotto, one of my friends added a copious amount of hard strong cheese to their portion, which they thoroughly enjoyed, so you might want to give that a whirl. Obviously if you are vegan, nooch or your favourite ‘hard strong cheese’ substitute will do the trick. I have had reasonable success with Violife, but to be honest, I barely miss it at all these days. Nooch is shorthand for ‘nutritional yeast’, sold in flakes that look a little like fish food but do deliver a satisfyingly cheesy taste to vegan food – it can be pricey to buy upfront, but lasts a long time. Whatever you top it with, remember to enjoy it
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