dimanche 31 juillet 2011

Strawberry Risotto - Risotto alle fragole - Risotto aux fraises et au comté

If an Italian grandma would tell her granddaughter how to make risotto properly… She would have probably said, “You will need butter. I will add a touch of butter to the olive oil so that the rice will reach a higher temperature before adding the wine. Then you must use the high quality cheese. As for the stock it must be homemade, as this is what flavours the risotto. Never compromise on this. The rice will absorb the liquid and triple in size and it will be flavoured with your lovely stock.”
“Then you need a good heavy saucepan, such as a cast-iron pot – a must if you like to cook risotto. Cook it slowly” “Concentration is the key – keep an eye on that pot. And finally you must be patient – stir the risotto until it is ready, add the butter and the cheese when it calls. Let it sit a little and off the table you go!”
Cooking risotto is a slow cooking preparation that will linger one’s pleasure in cooking food, especially for loved ones!
Preparing slow cook meals is a tradition in European cuisine, especially on Sundays - “mijote” in France and “ragù” in Italy. The French grandmas “Mamies” used to cook in heavy cast-iron “marmites” (cocottes or casseroles or dutch ovens today) that fitted onto the cast-iron stove fueled by wood
Time evolved. It is induction era now. It is still a culinary secret for preparing savoury, healthy meals by slow cooking that lingers the cook’s joy of cooking…
By slow cooking at low heat temperatures, the cast-iron pots heat and redistribute heats evenly, trap moistures and flavours inside the pot. The results are : flavours intensified; keeping food hot for long time directly from the stove or oven to the table.
This is a risotto that marries the stunning flavours of strawberries and comté cheese. It is not the least a dessert ! You will be surprised by the creamy, savoury risotto with a fruity hint, just a hint, by the strawberries, that will make you very appetising. Enjoy!

Strawberry Risotto
(For two)
§         4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
§         1 shallot, finely chopped
§         250 g vialone nano rice (or carnaroli, or arboris rice depending on the texture desired)
§         1 litre vegetable stock, slow cooked from 1 white onion, a bunch of carrots, 2 leeks, 1 celery branch, 2 small fennels, 3 European purple turnips, and bouquet garni (flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay leave wrapped in a green outer leaf of the leek) and stringed , salt and grains of peppercorns to taste
§         100 ml (half small bottle) of wine - champagne, preferably rosé, (or a rosé, or a fruity white wine) – optional if you don’t’like alcohol or you prepare this dish for children
§         500 g strawberries, hulled
§         40 g butter
§         70 g comté cheese, grated (or parmesan, but the contrasting tastes of comté, aged old 18 months better still, and strawberries make a surprising alliance).
§         Fleur de sel, rose peppercorns, crushed, to taste
Utensils used:
Berry colander, heavy cast iron cocottes (26cm oval and  1.9l heart-shaped), mortar, silicon spatula (or wooden spoon), stoneware jug, trivet, grater

Preparing the strawberries:  
Wash and hull the strawberries. Strain away any water in a berry colander. Crush half of them a bit in a mortar (or with a spoon in a bowl). Set aside some pieces for decorating the risotto. Cut the rest in quarters.

Preparing the vegetable stock beforehand
Wash and peel the vegetables. Prepare a bouquet garni by tying the fresh herbs inside a green outer leaf of the leek. Secure with a kitchen string.
In a heavy cast iron cocotte (or if making a  large volume of stock for subsequent use, an enameled steel stockpot), slow cook the vegetables with 1 and a half litre of water, and the bouquet garni, for 2 hours, to obtain a rich flavoured vegetable stock.
Strain away the vegetables and herbs. 
It is important that the vegetable stock must be hot when adding a bit at a time into the risotto, otherwise the risotto will stop cooking nicely…
Just before making the risotto, bring the vegetable stock to a boil and keep hot in a good jug with good heat retention such as heat resistant stoneware.  Alternatively, keep the stock simmer in another stove.

Cooking the risotto : 
In a cocotte, heat some butter with the olive oil, add the minced shallots and allow to sweat over a medium heat without colouring it, until softened (when you smell the shallot hovering in the air, this is the sign…).
Stir in the rice and make sure each grain is coated with the melted butter and oil.
Moisten with the wine and stir.
Add a ladleful of hot stock, stir and simmer for a minute, until absorbed.
Stir in the crushed strawberries and then gradually add the remaining stock n the same manner, each time a ladleful, stir and until absorbed before adding the next.

“Mantecare il risotto” (the final touch of adding butter and cheese) : 
When the rice is al dente, remove from the heat. (It takes about 20-30 minutes for cooking the risotto but judge from the texture desired). If necessary stand the cocotte on a heavy cast-iron trivet. Stir in the butter and half of the grated cheese, and season with salt and crushed rose peppercorns.
Leave to rest for a minute, then top with the quartered strawberries and remaining grated cheese, decorate with one or two strawberries sliced half length if desired. Serve.


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