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!

Farfalle con i Broccoli e le Acciughe

You know how it is.  Sometimes you look in the fridge and cupboard and think WTH!! What can I make out of this lot!  Well, experiments can turn out well and sometimes, much to my surprise, I find either Italians or Indians [dependent on the amount of spices used] have got there first!  This recipe has its home in Southern Italy, the Apulia region I later found, and it has become a favourite quick meal for ‘Veggie/Piscatorial’ friends when they drop in.

A small head of Broccoli; a good glug of decent Olive Oil; a can of anchovy fillets in oil; 3 oz Manchego cheese, freshly grated; black pepper.  400 g of Farfalle [pasta bows] or Conchigle or similar.

Cut off the broccoli florets, halving if overlarge, slice the stalk into thin rounds.  [I invariably keep my broccoli in the fridge standing in a bowl of water having cut off the bottom slice.  Keeps it fresh & green ’til you need to use it.]  Steam over a pan of boiling water for about 5 mins, removing while still Al Dente.  Then cut the florets into small pieces.

Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the anchovies, oil and all, snipping them up small with scissors.  Add all the steamed broccoli, and stir and cook together for 2/3 minutes. When well melded together grind plenty of black pepper over the mix, and turn the heat right down.

Bring your pasta water to a rolling boil adding a little rock salt and olive oil, then cook your pasta.  Drain and put into a warmed bowl, stirring with a little olive oil.  Add the Broccoli mix and stir gently through.  Sprinkle the Manchego overall.

Then serve, and if asked, airily say, “This?”, “Oh it’s just something I knocked up from odds and ends……….”

Buono Appetito!