This dish came to fruition roughly a year ago at Pollen, our first pop-up dining event. We wanted a course on the menu to showcase the wonderful green vegetables available during Spring. Asparagus however was particularly difficult to get our hands on as it’s not
commonly grown here in Malta. After a lot of asking around we were introduced to Josef, a young farmer who happened to have a small plot of asparagus which he was working. On each day of the event, Josef would freshly cut the asparagus and deliver it to our doors. Since then Josef and his cooperative of young farmers have become our primary source for fruit and vegetables here at the MCA.
For the Risotto
· 300g pearl farro
· 800ml vegetable stock or water
· 250ml dry white wine
· 2 medium white onions
For the Pesto
· 100g Mint and Basil leaves
· 50g toasted pistachios
· 50g grated Parmigiano Reggiano
· 3 medium garlic cloves
· 75ml extra virgin olive oil
· 2 lemons worth of zest
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
· Blanched peas, asparagus, broad beans or haricot vert
Set a medium sized pot over medium heat and add a glug of olive oil to it. Finely mince the onions and add to the pan with a pinch of salt. Sweat down for 5 minutes or until softened.
Increase the heat to high and add the farro to the pot and toast for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the onions from scorching.
Add the white wine to the pot and reduce over high heat until the pot is almost dry. Add 600ml of vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 20 minutes or until al dente.
For the pesto begin by crushing the garlic cloves down in a pestle & mortar with a pinch of salt. Add the herbs a few leaves at a time and grind down to a paste. Add the nuts and cheese and grind down to a coarse paste. Stream in olive oil and combine. Season with salt, pepper and lemon zest. If your pestle & mortar isn’t large enough work in batches or alternatively use a blender or food processor to combine all ingredients.
Cut the green vegetables down into bite size pieces and blanch separately in a large pot of heavily salted water at a rolling boil for two minutes or until tender. Immediately remove to a bowl of well iced water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, set aside over absorbent kitchen towel and refrigerate until needed.
To finish the dish warm through the risotto adding a little bit of the remaining stock as needed. Just before serving add the blanched green vegetables and stir through until they are hot. Spoon in the pesto along with liberal gratings of Parmigiano Reggiano at the last moment and stir to combine.
Serve immediately onto hot plates and garnish with toasted pistachios, good quality extra virgin olive oil and even more liberal gratings of Parmigiano Reggiano.