I still have to do travel journals for my jaunts to the Italian Lakes, Lyon and Croatia! Whew. Meanwhile, here’s a little taster of what we got up to in Italy. Have you seen anything quite so dramatic? I mean, look at that colour.
Beetroot risotto was not a combination that would have crossed my mind and I like that there are still places and chefs that can challenge your preconceptions of what food should look and taste like. This one’s almost Nordic in its simplicity don’t you think?
We had this dish at Il Vicoletto in Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore. A bright pink disc with swirls of melted gorgonzola on top, this was rich, comforting and just right for a chilly spring evening. JL and I shared it a a starter and were mighty thankful we did. Everywhere we ate in Stresa had impeccable food. The restaurants on our little Isola Superiore even gave complimentary prosecco before every meal.
So of course I had to try and reproduce it at home, and this is what I came up with:
Not bad for a first try. It turns out there are tons of beetroot risotto recipes on the internet and I settled on a recipe from The Guardian.
Super simple to make, all it needs is a little babysitting over the stove so it doesn’t catch at the bottom and burn. The variety of toppings is endless. This time I went for smoked mackerel with black pepper, dill, sour cream and walnuts. Next time I’ll leave out the walnuts, they were pretty strong and overwhelmed the more delicate flavours of the dish.
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter
250g cooked beetroot
2 shallots, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
850ml chicken or vegetable stock
35g butter, plus a knob for later
A splash of olive oil
175g risotto rice
80ml white wine
A little fresh thyme (optional)
Juice of ½ lemon
50g parmesan, freshly grated
Salt and black pepper
50g gorgonzola, melted and drizzled over with toasted walnuts
Grated parmesan cheese or crumbled soft goat’s cheese
Roast beef with horseradish cream
Smoked mackerel with sour cream or natural yoghurt and dill
1 Pour the stock into a pan, bring it to the boil then lower to a simmer. Blitz the beetroot with a blender or food processor adding 4 tbsp of hot stock to make a thick, smooth puree.
2 Dice the shallots and garlic. Put a second pan on the hob. Add the butter and oil. Once hot, add the shallots and garlic. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 5 minutes, until the onion softens.
3 Tip the unwashed rice into the pan and stir well to coat it. Cook for a minute, stirring. Increase the heat. Add the wine and stir until it’s almost absorbed, then immediately add a large ladle of hot stock. Add the thyme, if using. Reduce the heat, so the mix keeps bubbling but doesn’t cook too fiercely.
4 Once absorbed, add another ladle of stock and keep stirring. Repeat this step until you have used virtually all the stock and the rice is just about cooked – this takes about 15-20 minutes. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice.
5 Stir in two-thirds of the beetroot puree. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the rest of the puree and half the parmesan. Stir in the butter to make it glossy. Taste and adjust.
6 Turn off the heat, put the lid on the pan and leave to rest for 3 minutes. Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and then finish with the remaining parmesan and your choice of toppings.