The idea of putting cold lettuce leaves into a warm dish may seem an unusual one, but it is one of my new favourite things. The idea is definitely not a revolutionary one; gently wilted lettuce has topped slick hot burgers for a hundred years or thereabouts, so there must be something in it. I found a bag of lettuce for 10p at my local Tesco Express, and have been folding it into everything ever since, much to the chagrin of my bunnies, who usually get to nibble on the bargains, but what they don’t know shan’t hurt them. If the idea really makes you shudder, then use a hardier leaf for this recipe, like spinach, chard or cabbage, but I promise you, the fresh, still-slightly-crisp surprise of a lettuce leaf in a creamy-soft risotto is a truly delightful one.
Serves 4 at 16p each
300g basic rice, 14p (45p/1kg, Smartprice at Asda)
1 tbsp oil or butter, 1p (97p/1l, Asda)
2 tbsp white wine, if you have it, 12p (£2.98/750ml Fre Chardonnay, Asda)
750ml stock, 3p (39p/12 stock cubes, Asda)
200g frozen peas, 15p (76p/1kg, Smartprice at Asda)
Quarter of a head of lettuce, 12p (50p/450g head of lettuce, Asda)
2 tbsp lemon juice, 4p (39p/250ml, Asda)
A pinch of pepper, <1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)
Grab a wide, shallow-based non-stick saucepan and pop it on the hob. Shake in your rice and add the oil or butter, and turn up the heat to gently toast it at the edges for a minute or two.
Add a splash of stock, and stir well to stop the rice from sticking and burning. Add a splash more. When it has absorbed, add a splash more, and repeat until the stock is two-thirds empty. This may seem laborious, but to me it is one of the joys of making a risotto; the ability to stand still for twenty minutes and lose myself in the methodical stirring and rhythmic hypnosis of a repetitive, gentle task. When the rice is starting to swell and almost all of the stock is absorbed, splash in the rest, along with the wine and one tablespoon of lemon juice.
Add the peas and pepper, and stir well. Finely slice the lettuce and set to one side; you will fold this through (gently stir it in) right at the very end, as any earlier and you will end up with a soggy rotten mess!
When the risotto is finished, that is, the rice is soft and sitting in a sticky, creamy liquid, bejewelled with bright green peas and a hint of wine, remove it from the heat. Gently fold in the lettuce to wilt it, dash over the rest of the lemon juice and an extra smattering of pepper, and serve immediately for best results.
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