Zucchini and Lemon Risotto

When Chef Gerald and his Mummy decided about two months ago to start a balcony garden, little did they know that their project would involve encountering various life forms that were never supposed to be part of our social circle.

It all started innocently enough with a few planters of herbs for Mummy and a few strawberry and chilli plants for Chef Gerald. Everybody assured us that they would be very easy to grow, so we embarked on this new initiative full of hope and confidence. Then, the new planter arrived – and it turned out to be a lot bigger than we thought. This, of course, meant that we suddenly had more room to plant things, so Mummy got a little carried away at the nursery and we ended up with several plants that weren’t part of the initial plan. And this is when the first problems started to arise.

First, there were the aphids. Lots and lots of small, round, plump critters, avidly feeding on the young and tender zucchini plants. Aphids are very easy to control, cheerfully announced our most trusted organic gardening website. Just give the affected plants a vigorous drench with your hose. Let the aphids fall to the ground, where the worms and the wild birds will get a nice meal out of them, before they get a chance to recolonize your plant. A garden hose? Wild birds? Worms? It all sounded fascinating, but the only problem was that no such things exist on our balcony. Squirting them individually with a spray bottle was much more fun though…..

Then came the mildew. You’re watering at the wrong time of the day, proclaimed the garden gurus. All of a sudden, knowing precisely what time the sun rises and sets each day took on a whole new meaning for us and watching the weather forecast became an important part of our evening routine.

Then came a short spell of hot summer weather. Around the same time, delicate cobwebs started dangling from the edges of the zucchini leaves, punctuated by tiny red dots. Red spider mites thrive in hot and dry conditions, read the verdict this time around…..

Having gained a whole new level of respect and appreciation for all those farmers who actually manage to grow beautiful organic produce, Mummy felt a huge sense of accomplishment when she managed to harvest our first two golden zucchini the other night. They weren’t exactly pretty (one had a rather log and narrow body and a disproportionately round head, while the other one had a rather huge pot belly) but, knowing how many pests and bugs they had to outwit to get to this stage, it was still amazing that they even managed to reach this stage.

Today’s recipe is a very basic risotto, aimed at making the most of the fresh zucchini flavour.

Zucchini and Lemon Risotto

2 cups arborio rice
3 – 5 cups good quality (preferably organic) vegetable or chicken stock (use the smaller quantity of stock if cooking this in a pressure cooker. For the standard cooking method, the final quantity of stock will vary depending on the type of rice used, just make sure you have enough hot stock handy during the cooking process)
4 medium sized zucchini (we used a mixture of gold and green zucchini), finely diced
2 leeks, white and pale green part only, washed, thinly sliced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of one lemon
2 tbsp fresh dill and parsley, finely chopped
50 g Parmesan, finely grated

Pour the stock in a sauce pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and keep simmering until required.

Pressure cooker method
Heat the oil in the pressure cooker on medium heat, then add the leek and cook, stirring, for about 8-10 minutes, until soft and golden.

Rinse the rice under cold water, drain well, then add to the leek and stir vigorously for about one minute or so, ensuring that the rice is coated in oil. Add about 1/2 cup of hot stock to the mixture and stir well to deglaze the pressure cooker.

Add the remainder of the hot stock, lock the lid in place, bring to pressure, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 6 minutes. Remove from heat, then let it rest for about 10 minutes before depressurising and unlocking the lid.

If using the standard cooking method, cook the leek as described above, add the rice and cook for 1 minute, then start incorporating 1/2 cup of hot stock at a time, waiting until most of the liquid has been absorbed before the next addition. Stir frequently and cook until the rice is soft but not mushy. This should take approximately 25-30 minutes.

For either cooking method – return the cooked rice to very low heat, add all remaining ingredients (reserve some of the Parmesan to sprinkle at the table) and stir well to incorporate everything. Remove from heat, cover and let it rest for another 5-10 minutes so the zucchini are just slightly softened by the heat. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serves 4.

I think that zucchini dice is not fine enough, Mummy


22 comments on “Zucchini and Lemon Risotto

  1. I discovered risotto a few years back and fell in love. I’ve only made two that were super successful, but this one looks promising. Congratulations on the summer garden!! We are friends with aphids and mildew as well. With our grey, grey spring and then summer my squash plant never made it. Only one small fruit was produced only to shrivel up and pass back into the ground. My jalapeno peppers flowered, but then there was no sun or heat and they just sat there. Now that fall has brought some sun the peppers have grown beautifully, but have NO heat! Ah well… there is always next year and thankfully there is also a farmers market with farmers who have more skill than I!
    Love the bird pic today!!!

  2. Hi Chef!

    I have never heard of rinsing Aroborio rice… Italians never do it because it could take off some of the starch and make it less creamy – but your photo looks great!

    Thanks for including pressure cooker instructions!


    hip pressure cooking
    making pressure cookers hip again, one recipe at a time!

    • Hi Laura! Oh, that’s such an interesting tip – I’ll definitely not rinse the rice the next time I make risotto, it will be very interesting to see the difference in texture… And yes, I would definitely recommend cooking risotto in the pressure cooker, it’s so easy I never cook it the “traditional” way any more…..

  3. To be very honest, I have never got around to make a good risotto dish- your dish looks super tempting and I guess it’s time to give it a shot!

  4. Beautiful risotto! I don’t know why I don’t make it more often…but you’ve inspired me!

  5. Delicious, I had potato risotto yesterday. I wonder why risotto is not more famous since it is so delicous

  6. Great recipe! We made wild mushroom truffle risotto last night and I wish I had leftovers for lunch!!

  7. WoW very detailed page w/recipe and lovely photo! I actually have never tried risotto… (shock…faint…get up-again) lol… I have seen them prepare it on the “Next Top Chef” so it seems like a very popular food item to prepare… #1Day I’ll give it a try. Tks for sending me the link 2 this site….

  8. There is something really special about being able to walk into the garden and harvest a delicious bounty for your kitchen. Your golden zucchini couldn’t have found a better home than in this lovely light risotto.

  9. Looks wonderful…I am big fan of risotto!

  10. What an interesting flavour for risotto, sure would love to try this, it looks refreshing

  11. Im still planning to make risotto with lemon.. Someday someday.. Is it very sour if you use whole one lemon?

    • We love fresh lemon in our house, Medeja, so for us it one whole lemon wasn’t too much. If you’re not too keen on the lemon though, you can always start by adding 1 -2 tbsp to start with, stir it in and do a taste test, then add more if you need to

  12. Yum! Zucchini and lemon. sounds great. Love your little birdie too. so sweet.

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