Monday, January 24, 2011

Roasted Broccoli and Blue Cheese Risotto for Two

So, it's not the most photogenic thing I can think of, but, damn! it's definitely one of the most delicious! My love affair with risotto started only recently, when we were on honeymoon in Croatia. After having worked in a Thai restaurant for 4 years, I was always like "Rice? Meh." and I never ordered or ate risotto my whole life. I wish I'd known what I was missing! Creamy, cheesy deliciousness without the heaviness of cream! Comforting, warm and heavenly, risotto was nothing like I imagined it would be - it was a MILLION times better!

It started off in Rome, where I had a less than exciting mushroom risotto. I swear, those tourist restaurants skimp on quality and charge the earth, because they think we wouldn't know any better. It was alright, but I new there was some key element missing that would make everything right. That risotto was a little bit watery, and a little undercooked, not the best introduction, but I persevered.

The next was at a tiny restaurant on the island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea, off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. We discovered this little place on a long walk along the waters edge at sunset, and popped in just before the dinner rush. I'd been reading up on things we should try while in Croatia, and decided on the Black Risotto, a specialty of the area. Flavoured with squid ink, it was delicate, cheesy, rich, and delicious. Whatever the hubs had has faded in contrast with that risotto. A deep black from the squid ink, with little pieces of tender octopus, garnished with a single, red cherry tomato, it was exactly what I was looking for. And there my love affair started; I was determined to recreate this at home, but where to start?!

[Enter, stage left: The Good Food and Wine Show] At the Show, I found an 'easy' package of risotto, which claimed to make cooking risotto easy. It included dried mushrooms, the arborio rice, all you needed was the wine, stock and cheese. Sounded easy enough, but I was still cowed by the reputation of risotto as finnicky and hard work. So I tried a baked risotto, and it turned out.. meh. It was alright, but it wasn't the creamy, rich deliciousness that I was after... Back to the drawing board.

A few months passed. We got married, life got in the way, and I was tired. I took a break from blogging, and it's been summer. We've had a heatwave, planned some renovations, and it's a new year. So in a bid to find something a bit more interesting (and vegetarian, in our bid to eat meat-free once a week), I decided to attempt risotto again. I bought the arborio rice, the Parmesan cheese, I planned a creamy, cheesy, mushroom risotto. You know, start with the basics. And you know what, people? It wasn't that hard. Sure, it took some time, and you can't go watch TV, but I was on the phone, and stir, stir, stirred away, and 45 minutes later, et voila! we had a plate of heaven on our hands! And I was hooked.

That was last week. This week, I got more adventurous. Yes, I'm finally getting to the point of this post. THIS HAS BLUE CHEESE! Did that get your attention? I hope so. This cheesy bowl of heaven pushes all the right buttons! With a touch of green goodness from broccoli and cauliflower, and a whole lot of creamy heavenliness from the blue cheese and Parmesan, this is a winner. A keeper. And a whole bowl of goodness.. All you need is a little bit of patience, and within an hour, you'll have a wonderful, impressive, delicious meal to serve your loved ones. Go forth, and make risotto! I know I will be!

I scaled down the ingredient this time, as I was cooking for two, and the last batch (500g of rice) meant I was eating risotto for 3 days! These measurements were perfect for the two of us, with some leftovers for my lunch, win!

Roasted Broccoli and Blue Cheese Risotto for Two

1 onion, chopped
Small pat of butter
Glug of olive oil
250g (1 cup) arborio rice
± 100ml (1/3 cup) white wine
± 1 litre (4 cups) stock (I used about 1.5 litres)
Small head broccoli and cauliflower, cut into small florets
± 125g (1/2 cup)Parmesan cheese, grated
Half a wedge of blue cheese

  1. Saute the onion in the butter and oil for a few minutes until soft. I usually let them brown a bit, but if you want a whiter risotto, don't let them brown.
  2. In another pot, make up a litre of hot stock, and keep it on a low temperature for the duration of cooking. You want it to be warm, but not boiling. If you look like you'll run out of stock before the end of cooking time, top it up with some clod
  3. Add the rice to the pan, and turn up the heat a bit to toast the rice for a few minutes, until coated with the butter/oil, and slightly translucent on the edges - 2-3 minutes. Keep the rice and onion turning, so they don't burn.
  4. Add the wine to the hot pan, and turn down the heat to medium. The wine should bubble quite vigorously, and will boil away and evaporate quite quickly.
  5. When the wine has boiled away, start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time. If you don't have a ladle, use a large spoon and put about 2-3 spoons in at a time. You want just enough to loosen it up, without drowning it. When that liquid's absorbed, add the next, and so you go, stirring, adding, stirring, adding continuously for about 35-45 minutes, or until your rice is cooked, with a slight firmness to it (al dente).
  6. When it's cooked, you can add anything - sautéed mixed mushrooms or asparagus, bacon bits or peas and mint, it's really up to you and your imagination, but I roasted up some broccoli and cauliflower (and then steamed a bit more, because it reduced too much when roasted), and added creamy blue cheese (Blue Tower from Fairview is a lovely, creamy blue, and doesn't cost the earth)
Serve with a side salad, or even as an accompaniment to a meat-centred dish. Or do what I do, and enjoy it with a glass or two of that wine you had to open to make the risotto. And remember, if you wouldn't drink it, you shouldn't cook with it! I discovered a lovely Californian Pinot Grigio at Pnp last night, and at just R29 it beat the locals, and was delish! Ah, I know, my carbon footprint.. but can you blame a girl for wanting to explore the world? through wine, at least...

And after that long story, I leave you.
Take care, my friends..

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  1. one of my favorite comfort meals!!

  2. Welcome back to the blog-o-sphere and thanks for the delish risotto recipe!


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