Winter nettle and chestnut risotto

Serves 4

Preparation time less than 30 mins

Cooking time 30 mins to 1 hour

2 pints nettles (measured when picked), loosely packed
8 tbsp unsalted butter
approx. 1 litre vegetable or light chicken stock
2 shallots, finely diced
fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, bay)
200g/7¼oz arborio rice
250ml/8¾fl oz dry white wine
230g/8oz peeled chestnuts, chopped in half
lemon juice
2oz fresh parmesan, finely grated, to serve
1. Wash the nettles in a large bowl, allowing any debris to drop to the bottom. Pick out any thick or tough stems. Do not be concerned that the washing water is peaty brown, this is normal.
2. To cook the nettles, heat one tablespoon of butter in a large pan over a high heat and drop in the leaves. Allow them to wilt and cook until they are tender.
3. Strain through a sieve, catching any liquid in a bowl. Squeeze the nettles and remove to a board, chopping them roughly. Set aside in a cool place while you make the risotto.
4. Heat the stock in a pan. Melt half the remaining butter in a large heavy pan, adding the shallots and stirring to soften them. Add two bay leaves and a teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme. Cook the shallots until they are tender and clear, then add the rice, stirring to allow all of the rice to be coated with some of the fat.
5. Add the wine and stir. While the wine is being absorbed, turn the heat to a medium simmer. Add ladlefuls of stock – two at first, and allow each addition to be absorbed. When two thirds of the stock is absorbed, add the chopped nettles and allow them to continue cooking in the rice. At this stage, add the chestnuts – they will break down slightly in the pan.
6. When most of the stock is absorbed, check the rice – it ought to be just cooked, the sauce still emulsified. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add the remaining butter and the parmesan, and serve with a sprinkle of lemon juice and a little freshly chopped parsley.

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