Risotto Bianco for Dummies!

So many make a great fuss about Risottos.  It actually takes no more time than any other hearty family dish.  Does it need stirring?  Yes!  So what!  It only needs it each time you chuck another ladleful of stock in.  Use the time in between to prepare something else, the pudding, or test the wine, talk to your guests, grate the cheese, whatever!  This is cooking not a boring task like scrubbing the bath!   Enjoy!

This is a simple recipe for a basic risotto, excellent on its own, or you can experiment and add items [mushrooms, sea-food, bottled artichoke hearts, etc] to make something even more special.

Serves 4, though as usual you can increase the basic ingredients to suit the number of bodies!

1 1/2 pints stock [I make mine from organic veg cubes or powder, but, even better, if you have your own stock, chicken, fish or w.h.y. do use it as appropriate for the dish];  1/2 a good size fennel bulb separated and finely chopped; 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced; a medium onion finely chopped; 8 oz of proper Risotto rice; 1 good wineglass of Pino Grigio [and make it a good one, don’t cook with stuff you wouldn’t serve to your favourite guests]or a Dry Vermouth; 2 oz unsalted butter; 2 tbsp good olive oil; about 3 to 4 oz of grated Manchego [personal bias again,I just find it creamier when melted than Parmesan]; Sea salt & pepper to taste.

Heat the stock ’til it has boiled then leave to stand on one side, add a pinch or two of sea salt and pepper. I put mine in a large jug with ladle at the ready in it.  Use a good size, wide & deep, fry pan with a flat bottom and cover  if you have one, and heat the olive oil & butter together ’til melted.  Add the Fennel, Garlic and Onion and cook on a lowish heat for about 15 mins stirring occasionally so it goes translucent but NOT brown.  When the mix, or soffrito, is ready add your rice and turn up the heat.

The rice begins to fry, keep stirring and the rice begins to take on the oil and become somewhat translucent itself.  When it does add the wine/ vermouth and stir away ’til the rice has absorbed it, enjoying the delightful smell being given off.  Cook’s Perks!

Then add your first ladleful of hot stock.  A soon as it boils up turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t begin to harden on the outside. Stir and push the rice around so that it begins to give off its creamy starch.  Let each ladleful get absorbed before adding the next.  I usually add my extra ingredients, if I’m using any, about half way through the stock jugs contents. This is plenty of time for seafood, artichokes or whatever to heat through without breaking down to mush.

Continue adding stock and stirring the rice and test when you think it may be done.  A slight al dente is about perfect.  Don’t worry if you run out of stock before this happens, just have a little boiling water on hand to add to your jug and keep going ’til it’s done.  By this time it will be creamy and smooth.

Turn the heat off and sprinkle the grated Manchego over evenly.  Put your cover on and leave for a couple of minutes ’til it’s melded into a delicious whole.  Serve immediately, with a mixed green salad and ripe plum tomatoes, sliced.  Perfecto!

Buono Appetito!

Linguini alla Putanesca

One of my personal favourites for a quick, easy, fairly light meal.  As there is no cheese used on the meal itself I often follow this with a Plum Tomato & Pak Choi [fresh & small leaves if poss. or sliced into strips] salad accompanied by a decent Brie or Neufchatel.  A simple meal, which when eaten outdoors on a Summers day, with a chilled Pino Grigio and good friends makes life seem somehow brighter!

Serves 4

4 garlic cloves finely chopped; 2 tbsp capers rinsed; 12 oz fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled & chopped [or a can of chopped Organic Italian tomatoes]; 2 handfuls of black olives, pitted and halved; can of anchovies, oil drained and not used; 4 tbsp good quality Olive Oil, 2 oz unsalted butter; 1 dried red chilli, crushed and mixed with the capers.  Fresh coriander chopped finely. 400 g Linguini.  Black pepper.

Heat the oil & butter in a large pan and add the drained anchovies, snipping them up with scissors.  Then add the garlic.  Stir until the garlic is just browning, then add the caper/chilli mix.  Stir, then add the tomatoes and olives.  When bubbling turn down and simmer for 20 mins, adding pepper to taste [it may, of course, be spicy enough without pepper!].

Then, with your pasta water at a rolling boil, add a little rock salt and olive oil, then your linguini. Stir once gently to ensure it doesn’t stick together and cook until ‘al dente’   Drain well and stir into your pan with the sauce.  That’s why you needed a large pan!  Leave to cook for a couple of minutes ’til the linguini is well coated with the sauce.  Sprinkle over the chopped coriander, and serve, in the cooking pan, straight to the table.

If any of your guests raise their eyebrows at this…..They’re the wrong guests!!!!

Buono Appetito