Best recipe: Risotto with sausage and borlotti beans

risotto sausage and borlotti beans

Risotto is a recipe I learnt to cook before I knew my husband, Matthew. It’s one of the few recipes that I can cook better than he can.

As we had no bones for the stock, we decided to make a vegetable stock consisting of half a stalk of celery (plus leaves), half an onion, several parsley stalks, a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. I boiled the lot for half an hour.

As it is difficult to find sausages with no spices (because I am intolerant to chilli and paprika) I decided to use pork mince and a pinch of fennel seeds.

This risotto recipes has excellent flavours, even though I hardly followed the recipe instructions.

Rose Gray says the following about the recipe:

I’ve always been a fan of Marcella Hazen. She’s an evocative food writer who is also very good on detail and precision and understands the importance of texture. This is a warming, wintry dish for people who love eating. I first came across it on a wine trip to Verona about 10 years ago. At that time you could only buy dried borlotti beans in the Uk; it’s only recently that fresh ones have arrived in our markets. They have a beautiful creamy consistency; they take on all the flavours of the fennelly sausage.

Risotto with sausage and borlotti beans
Adapted from Risotto with sausage and cranberry (borlotti) beans – Marcella Hazan, Marcella Cucina

200g tin of borlotti beans
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsps butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/2 cup of pork mince
1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
4 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of arborio rice
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbs chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley (optional)
salt and pepper

  1. Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan and maintain on a low simmer.
  2. Add the olive oil to a second saucepan and gently cook the onion until translucent. Add the pork mince and brown. Add the fennel seeds and stir in.
  3. Add the butter and when melted add the rice and reduce the heat to low. Coat all grains of rice with the butter.
  4. Add some vegetable stock to just cover the rice and increase the heat to medium.
  5. Mash the beans in a bowl and then add to the risotto.
  6. Cook, stirring, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  7. Gradually add more stock waiting until each new batch has been absorbed. Keep stirring so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot!
  8. When rice is ready stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley (if using). Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve after 25 minutes, or when the rice is al dente.

Serves 2.

Sowing beans and peas to add nitrogen


Our neighbours next to the vegetable beds are going to pull down their old asbestos-filled house and build a new one. We have a make-shift fence between us at the moment and with an energetic dig-loving tiny dog we’re hoping they build a new fence soon.

We’ve put our plans on growing things in the vegetables beds on hold. I get a little paranoid about being 100% organic and at one point I wanted to cover the beds with tarp so the building dust and crap doesn’t drift over the area. I’m hoping the new fence will block some of it.

Anyhow, I’ve been sorting through my seeds and discovered several packets of beans and peas that have ‘expired’ and need to be planted. With a nothing-to-loose attitude, we planted them out on Sunday, just after it had rained almost all of Saturday.

It’s amazing how the soil quality differs in the four beds. The bed which previously had potatoes growing in it is packed with worms. We wonder if it was the additional cow manure that has made the difference.

As the soil was thoroughly wet, we didn’t pre-soak the beans and peas, as sometimes recommended.  We planted in a random fashion Cherokee Wax bush bean, Rattlesnake bean, Blue Lack climbing beans, Lazy Housewife bean, Purple King climbing bean, Scarlet Emperor runner bean, Snake climbing bean, Scarlet Emperor runner bean, Telephone pea and Massey Gem pea.

I’m not too bothered whether we get a harvest or not. My motivation for planting the beans and peas is to fix nitrogen back in to the soil and help rejuvenate it. So in this instance they are serving as a cover crop.

We going to focus on setting up the food forest in the next few months. I’m madly saving for my chickens and bees.

Matt also installed our new worm tower and trellis system from Birdies Garden Products. A big thank you to Birdies for the lovely surprise.

The Herb Robert has self seeded and is now growing amongst the undergrowth of our native border. I dug up some oregano and mint with roots and replanted them among the bottom of the natives. Now it’s starting to feel a little more like permaculture.

Magic baked beans

Ever since our trip to Kingaroy (peanut and navy bean country), I’ve been trying to make baked beans from scratch. We stayed in a gorgeous little self contained cabin, and breakfast was all prepared in the fridge. The delicious home-made baked beans held their shape and they tasted nothing like what you get in a tin.

First I wanted to try Maggie Beer’s recipe, but we couldn’t find any pork speck.

A few months later, I wanted to try Delia Smith’s recipe, which also appears in her new book Frugal Food. But I couldn’t find any streaky belly of pork as required. Matt suggested Kasseler (German ham) could work.

The biggest stumbling block is that beans take for-ever to cook, so there’s no way we can eat them for Sunday breakfast without planning ahead. By the time I decided I want to make them and read the recipe, I ended up disappointed that I should have started the day before.

For my third attempt, I bought some navy beans and shredded coconut (for biscuits) from the health food store. They sat together in the sun on our dining room table for about a week. When I added the beans to a bowl of water for soaking, they shriveled up and sprouted before our very eyes. It was the strangest thing!

Aside – I’m officially retiring from my short baked beans career and going back to tinned beans. (Matt loves Heinz – British recipe only, and I like the organic ones).

Purple podded beans

We have started to harvest beans, including handfuls of beautiful vibrant purple ones that magically turn green when cooked. The Native Americans use a technique called the three sisters. They interplant corn, bean and squash together in a beneficial arrangement. The beans add nitrogen back into the soil, while the squash keeps the weeds out. You can plant beans through corn so that they will curl up and around the corn stalks. At the moment, our beans happily co-exist next to the corn but haven’t reached their tendrils out in their direction.

The melons are taking over one of the beds. We happily broke off our first melon, and took it back to the kitchen to slice up. We both tasted the pale white flesh and to our dismay discovered it was hard and sugarless. I looked it up in a book and worked out it was a jam melon! That’s the last pack of variety seeds I buy.