I’m sure you have all been on the edge of your seats, waiting to hear of my progress up the allotment waiting list. Well, big news here, I have a plot! I’ve been pretty lucky to inherit a patch that’s been well-cared for until recently, compared to some of the weed forests that are also up for grabs. In fact I’ve been pretty lucky full-stop, considering that I live in London where some waiting lists are 40 years long and people even put their children down to secure an allotment for their future middle age!
So, here it is, in all its glory:
In some ways it’s a great time of year to get an allotment; plenty of time to dig, prepare and plan for next season. But I’m also itching to get going (growing – ha!) Fortunately I have some bits and bobs in the garden to be getting on with, some of which are just coming into their own at this time of year. Radicchio is one of those crops.
Now, it’s looking very pretty but I must confess that I don’t really know what I’m doing. Planted during the summer, it first grew hairy green leaves which have gradually come away to reveal these shiny little red hearts. Should I be blanching it? Or forcing it? I really have no idea so I thought I would try instead to eat it. This recipe calls for the bitter leaves of radicchio married with a creamy, fruity, washed rind cheese. Italians would plump for Taleggio but I went for Durrus.
Durrus is made by Jeffa Gill in County Cork, an area with the perfect climate for washed rinds – damp and briny from the sea. It is influenced by Swiss techniques, using a Swiss copper vat and a Swiss harp. The curds are drained in their moulds to retain some moisture and then brined, turned and washed up to five times a day. The smell is as pungent as you would expect but as with most washed rinds, the taste is far more pleasant and a welcome contrast to the bitter radicchio.
Ingredients (serves two)
1 small head radicchio, finely shredded (mine was a mixture of red and green leaves)
1 small red onion, finely chopped
200g arborio rice
1 small glass red wine
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
Olive oil and butter
110g Durrus or another washed rind cheese, rind removed and cut into small pieces
Parmesan to serve
Add a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter to a frying pan and fry the radicchio until soft. Add the onion to the pan and fry until soft. Add the rice and cook it for one minute, ensuring that it’s covered in the hot oil. Add the red wine and let it evaporate, stirring constantly.
Add the hot stock, a ladle at a time. Keep stirring and adding stock as it evaporates, which should take 15-20 minutes.
When the rice has become creamy but still retains bite, add the Durrus and a large knob of butter and stir through with another splash of stock until the cheese melts. Serve hot with a light sprinkling of Parmesan.