Sunday, 5 February 2012

Redhead Risotto: Porcini, Leek and Jerusalem Artichoke

Seventh floor, Tate Modern.

The Redhead and I are perched on seats that are too tall for us. We’re drinking to keep warm - a carafe of something that would have cost us five college dinners ten years ago. It’s lovely. It’s warming, this Trescone. Tourists shuffle behind us, huffing from the traipse up fourteen flights of stairs, only for their wondrous view of St Paul’s Cathedral to be marred by the heads of two women resolutely ignoring their protruding (or should I say intruding) fancy camera lenses.

Conversations with the Redhead are rarely linear. When we meet there’s not too much of the how are yous, what you been up tos. She could be reminiscing about nights lost queueing up to see the Manics, recent weddings (including her own) or explaining why she’s an evolved vegetarian - in fact, an evolved vegan - who now eats oysters (although she panicked when she scoffed them the night before her wedding. A ‘Bridesmaids’ scenario is to be avoided at all costs, I think). I will tell her with affection that I bought her a wedding wine - a super-Tuscan Cepparello (at Ruth Ford's suggestion) that matches her penchant for grilled aubergines.

Clearly there will be patchy holes of things we should know about each other that we don’t. Amidst twelve years of friendship, there’s bound to be something we’ve missed out on. But it’s a fright to learn that she’s been a fellow Riverford box subscriber for three years. THREE YEARS. She has hidden this crucial fact as slyly as she hid just how disgustingly clever she was at university.

And of course, this sets us off on a zillion directions - what the hell to do with a Jerusalem artichoke, how the Riverford man likes to hide her box in a bush - some sort of herbaceous joke neither of us quite get, how my Riverford scrubbing brush (free with the tenth box) changed my life, how she cheats by peeling muddy carrots.

Post-revelation, I promise that I’ll post some good Jerusalem artichoke recipes for her. Even as I type I’m preparing some for a happy marriage with a melting beef shin stew, so in love with the root am I.

So, this recipe, adapted from a Riverford one, is for the Redhead. A soothing risotto with a topping of slightly crunchy and tart Jerusalem artichokes - bowlfuls of comfort on a cold snowy day.

Redhead risotto

Handful dried porcini
Boiling water just enough to cover
2 tablespoons butter
1 leek finely sliced
1 small onion finely chopped
150g risotto rice
Big splash of dry vermouth or white wine
500ml hot stock - veg or chicken
Lots of grated parmesan

Olive oil
2 or 3 well scrubbed jerusalem artichokes. Thickly sliced.
2 lemon quarters

Soak the dried porcini in a small bowl with just enough boiling water to cover. Not too much.

Melt the butter over a medium-high heat in a large pan, add leeks and onions, and soften for a good 5 minutes or until they’re smelling lovely. Stir occasionally so they don’t catch.

Add the rice, give a stir or two for a minute to let the flavours get to know each other. Add the wine or vermouth, and let bubble until it’s all gone.

Add a slosh of the stock, let bubble away and stir every now and then. Keep adding a slosh of stock every time it has bubbled away until all the stock’s used up. This should take about half an hour. The rice should be al dente.

Meanwhile, parboil the jerusalem artichokes for about 8 minutes. Drain, and chop into 2cm cubes. Heat a frying pan with olive oil on a medium-high heat, and add the cubes. Stir to coat in the oil, then fry the cubes so that they brown - and only stir occasionally so that the sides have time to brown. This should take about 10 minutes for the artichokes to get a really meaty nutty flavour. Add a sprinkling of salt, and a squeeze of lemon before you take them off the heat.

When the rice is cooked, add the porcini in its liquid, stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the parmesan, stir and serve, with the crunchy cubes of jerusalem artichoke on top.


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