Squash Blossom Risotto

pumpkin blossoms
Early pumpkin blossoms are light and delicately tasty

Despite recent radish issues and an out and out potato fail, my garden is currently offering up some really wonderful pumpkin and courgette flowers which have been going into our new favourite summer evening dinner. I do love a risotto, and weirdly I forget how much I love a risotto quite frequently and hadn’t made one in months until I was faced with coming up with something that was nice enough to warrant Birthday Dinner status without doing any further hurt to a serious toothache issue I wont bore you with now (it really hurts BTW).

Squash blossoms abound at this time of year and tend to provide a good amount of vitamins C and A.  This is a quick, vegetarian friendly recipe once you sort your prep out and perfect for an indulgent summery dinner at home. You can simply garnish with a whole flower or go all out with the fried stuffed version depending on how much time you have. It will work equally well with courgette flowers, though they are slightly smaller and differ in taste from the pumpkin flowers. Harvest your flowers with as much of the stalk as you can, ideally first thing in the morning or after some good rainfall. The un-opened ones will be easier to stuff if you are going for the fried-garnish option.

Boomboom Blossom Risotto.

stuffed blossome
soft cheese stuffed pumpkin blossoms ready to fry

Serves Two.

160g risotto rice
4 fresh pumpkin blossoms or 6 courgette flowers (or a mix of both)
1 tbspn rapeseed oil
1 white onion
15 button or 8 chestnut mushrooms
1 courgette
3 cloves garlic
2 tbspns soft cheese
1 glass dry white wine
500ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese

For fried flower garnish:
More rapeseed oil
3  tbspns soft cheese
1 egg
2 tbspns sifted plain flour

You do need a little bit of prep on this one if you are going with the fried flower garnish so get organised early by making up your stock, finely dicing your onions, garlic, mushrooms and courgettes and gently but thoroughly washing the flowers in cold water.

Take out the two largest (or most aesthetically pleasing) blooms and set aside for using as the garnish. De-stalk and finely shred the rest of them.  Beat the egg and sift the flour then be ready with a tea strainer or fine sieve.  Season the soft cheese with salt and pepper and beat it well then very carefully spoon this into the flowers. I find this most easy to do with the handle of a teaspoon, don’t over fill them! Put these aside for now.

This is the point in proceedings to take any kind of break that you need be it to go for a pee, make yourself a drink or talk to your dinner guest because once you start a risotto YOU MUST NOT LEAVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!

Put plenty of rapeseed oil into a heavy bottomed frying pan and put this aside. In another large pan (that you have a lid for) heat 1 tbspns of oil and fry off the onions and garlic, adding the courgettes and mushrooms once the onion is translucent. Cook through for 3 minutes then add the risotto rice to your pan and stir well to combine. Add the wine now and stir gently but continuously until the wine is absorbed by the rice. As always, don’t use horrible cheap ‘cooking’ wine, go with something you can stand to drink. Co-op do a lovely English Bacchus at the moment which does nicely with this dish.
Add the vegetable stock a cup at a time, stirring all the time until the liquid is absorbed and continue to add until the rice is al dente  or soft with a tiny bit of bite left. Basically just cooked but not soggy. You might not need all of the stock for this.
Take this pan off the heat now and stir in the soft cheese plus some sea salt and black pepper, put the lid on and leave to one side.
Turn the heat on now on to your other pan and dip your garnish flowers into the egg. Use a fine sieve or a tea strainer to thoroughly dust the flour onto flowers (ha!) rather than dipping them as this tends to have an unfortunately claggy result. You only want a fine layer of flour over everything. When the oil is hot, fry the flowers quickly for only a minute or so on each side or until you see only the slightest colour  developing. Drain them on some kitchen paper.
Quickly now stir the shredded flowers into your risotto then plate immediately with the stuffed blossom on top and some parmesan cheese. I find this best served with a plain green salad and a big glass of dry white wine in a sunny garden!

Variations- If you don’t want to stuff the flowers and go through all that you can just lightly fry or even bake the flowers on their own. If you have a deep fat fryer try a tempura style batter on the whole flowers or even on the shredded rings for a crunchier topping.
You can leave the wine out if you wish just use more stock.
If you swap the veg stock for chicken stock this will work but I would dilute it slightly as chicken stock tends to taste a little stronger.
Vegans/weight watchers or the dairy intolerant can forgo the soft cheese however I would suggest finishing it instead with a nice glug of extra virgin olive oil to keep it rich and luxuriant as all risottos should be!


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