French bean and pesto risotto for ships in the night

French bean and pesto risotto for ships in the night


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Some weeks my boyfriend and I don't share an evening off, let alone a day. I know a lot of people that have weird ships-in-night schedules to deal with- so when these weeks come around, I try and make dinners that are just as good at 7pm as they are at 1am. And, of course, for boxing up and surviving a cycle to work the next morning for lunchtime. 

This risotto isn't super heavy on rich flavours- you could add stronger to your taste- but I was looking for something that would be fresh and reasonably light while London stays as hot as July. The green beans add crunch, the toasted pine nuts a smoky scent and the rocket pulls it all together. I've used some pesto right at the end, but again, you could add this nearer the start of cooking if you want something a bit bolder.   

Oooh and thanks very much to my Mum and Dad for letting me raid their cupboards to bring back these ingredients... grazie mille!

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Makes enough for 6


2 small or 1 medium white onion, chopped small

Olive oil

Salt and pepper 

1 vegetable stock cube to make 1.5 litres of stock

500g arborio rice

2 large handfuls of french green beans or runner beans, with the tips cut off and cut in half or thirds so they are bitesize

Handful of pine nuts

2 tbsp vegan pesto  

Handful of rocket or other spicy salad leaves

Risotto is just a game of patience, so only make this if you have 30-40 minutes to spend on dinner. The pan needs you more than ANYTHING ELSE.  

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, and add the chopped onions. Cook on a low heat with a little seasoning until the onion starts to go translucent at the edges and it smells really good. While this is happening, boil the water for the stock and add to a jug that's easy to pour from.

Once the onion is ready, add in the rice and stir to mix in the onion and oil. Add a little more oil if you think it needs it, and then pour in a small amount of the stock, just to take the heat off the bottom of the pan and stop the rice from sticking. If you haven't made risotto before you'll soon get a feel for it, but you must keep stirring pretty much constantly while the rice cooks. Once you can't see the liquid at the bottom of the pan as you stir, it's time to add a small amount of stock again. 

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Carry on doing this until you're reaching the end of your stock. If you finish your stock and the rice isn't done, just carry on adding hot water. You'll know when it's done when the rice mixture has more than doubled in size, and is no longer crunchy to taste- it should have a bite but should nearly be melt-in-the-mouth for texture. Add more seasoning to taste, and when you think the rice is about 5 minutes away, add in the green beans. 

When it's finished, I like to leave it for a further five minutes just for the risotto to develop its flavour a bit more- so add another round of seasoning and a little more olive oil, and then turn off the heat but put a lid on the pan. In this time you can fry the pine nuts in a dry pan, just so they are lightly toasted. 

Plate up with the rocket leaves, a few dollops of pesto, the pine nuts and maybe another splash of olive oil. Just as good at dusk, sunrise and midday!

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August out takes

August out takes  

Here's some of my favourite parts of the last of summer. You can follow behind the scenes of my Guac & Roll adventures on Instagram- @avainlondon 


Breakfasts and brunches. From top left to bottom right: lemon and poppyseed gluten free, vegan pancakes at Naomi's (yes they are magic), big old fry-up at my Auntie's house, birthday breakfast for my Dad at home, and a get-well soon porridge just for me back in London.


Out and about: swooning over the shelves at the Life Goddess in Fitzrovia (go for the soy flat whites, stock up on orzo and amazing wheat pasta shapes). Other people's houses means other people's recipe books! Doing a bit of Sunday research with Nigel Slater whilst on a mini-seaside holiday. My first trip to a vegan restaurant in York, at the Goji Cafeand the smoked tofu burger that BLEW MY MIND! And finally, a sweetcorn salsa for a birthday party with fresh corn and spring onions.


Dinners to eat again and again: hearty ratatouille with everything from the fridge, Amelie's beautiful stuffed tomatoes, homemade chips and runner bean dinner I could eat every night of the week (yes I am inviting myself over again Amelie!). Seedy dinner with broccoli, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, radishes and giant cous cous. A fresh summer pizza with asparagus, leek and torn basil.


Last days of summer: watermelon and cocktails at a house party, berries galore on holiday, a beautiful roasted vegetable tart at my BFFs, and a last attempt at making acorn squash tasty, roasted with marjoram and onion (nope, still not tasty).