My no-alcohol endeavours came to a fairly untimely end after 2 long and sweaty sets of tennis when my friend Anthony suggested a pint in our local. The newly refurbished Bull Inn in West Tanfield sits at the bottom of the Yorkshire Dales and perched along the River Ure which becomes the Ouse later in its south-easterly meanderings. It has one of the prettiest beer gardens I have ever been in, beside a stunning old stone bridge. In short, the idea of supping a lime and soda there seems ludicrous. In spitting distance are the Black Sheep and Theaston breweries, with Timothy Taylors not far either, and a great swathe of smaller breweries all producing sublime bitter and ale.
But a man must eat, and our foray into the Bull’s menu had to be postponed as Anthony’s mother had already cooked for him. Me, I had Dad breathing down my neck to eat whatever was in the fridge (he and Mum were going out for supper) – two barbecued partridges which had been in there for God knows how long, and a huge bag of fresh peas from the garden. The partridges, I decided, could wait for the dogs. I set about shelling the peas, a job made less tiresome by the fact that you could pop them in your mouth as you went, but more so because you had to shell double as a result of this practice. The peas are slung in a risotto with some bacon and fresh mint, and although I burn my tongue in my over-zealousness to gobble it down (it would be soothed by Theakstons later) it is comforting yet inherently summery. These quantities serve 1 but can all be multiplied within reason.
I took a photo but it was crap – you know what a risotto looks like.
Pea, bacon and mint risotto
3 rashers streaky bacon
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot or onion
75g Arborio risotto rice
A splash of white wine or vermouth
650ml hot chicken stock (cubed is fine)
a handful of freshly shelled peas – frozen are perfectly good too though
25g Parmesan cheese
A few mint leaves, sliced
In a saute pan (like a large saucepan that never grew tall) fry the bacon over a medium heat till lightly crispy and pop on kitchen paper to drain a little. Reduce the heat and add the shallot to the pan with a little olive oil and a crunch of pepper (don’t add salt at this point – the bacon, Parmesan and, I find, stock cubes all have a fair amount of salt so only add salt at the end if you feel it is necessary). Soften the shallot, increase the heat and add the rice, stirring for a minute or two. Add the white wine and stir till the rice has absorbed it. Then add a ladle of stock. Once this has been absorbed, add another. Continue in this fashion for 15 minutes, stirring regularly but not constantly – there’s really no need. Chop the bacon into bits. When the rice is almost cooked but still has a little bite to it, add the bacon, peas, cheese and mint, and a final ladle of stock and stir for another 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add a little salt and/or pepper if necessary. Eat. Don’t burn your tongue.