Saturday, 2 June 2007
If at first you don't succeed......
One of my favourite foods is risotto. Warm, comforting and delicious, it makes me happy when I am sad and happier when I am happy. I even love the fact you have to invest 30 minutes at the stove with a patient arm stirring away. That fact makes the dish even more attractive, almost as though you have worked for your tucker.
Unfortunately, not everybody has the same nice thoughts on risotto. My wife hates the stuff. I've spent years trying to understand why but I don't think even she understands. She can't put it down to whether it is the texture of the 'al dente' grain or the combination of an almost dessert-like rice with a savoury gloop. I'm a persistent kind of bloke, so each time I make some for my daughter and I, I always try to tweak it slightly in the hope that my wife will suddenly like it.
One thing I always say to children and adults alike is to always try something once. If you don't like it, try it with something that you do like or eat it cooked in a different way. It usually works. I know my wife loves butternut squash, and I know she likes smoked bacon. Not a new concept in risotto I know, but I tried this combination. Also, instead of making it as 'sloppy' as I usually like it, I made it a bit drier in the hope that my wife would not mistake it with a savoury rice pudding, which I suspected was always the problem. And guess what? I tried some out on her yesterday and she finished the whole bowl. And wanted more. My daughter and I looked on with a mixture of confusion, elation and disappointment as the last drops from the pan we were saving for later were devoured before our eyes.
My wife has no idea why she ate the whole bowl with gusto. But it just goes to show that if you experiment, encourage and keep trying, you can change the perception of even the most stubborn of adults, never mind our darling head-strong children. And who on this earth really can go a lifetime without eating this fine food of the Italian Gods? Well done Helen, I'm proud of you xxx
Butternut Squash and Smoked Bacon Risotto
Serves 2 and 1 child (with a bit left for greedy people...)
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, sliced
4 rashers of smoked bacon, cut into small strips
2 tbs olive oil
1 knob butter
300g Arborio rice
1 glass of white wine
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (fresh or from a cube), hot
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Fresh parsley finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 - Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently until soft but not coloured. Return the bacon and rice, and stir until the rice is coated in the oil and fat.
2 - Add the wine and cook until the wine has almost evaporated. Then add the cubed squash.
3 - Begin to add the stock, a ladle full at a time and stir gently in a circular motion until the stock is almost absorbed. Continue in this fashion for 20-25 minutes, until the stock is used up or the grains have plumped up nicely, are almost cooked but still retaining a slight crunch (of course, you cook it to your liking!).
4 - Add 25g of the Parmesan cheese and stir thoroughly. Taste for seasoning, it should need a good grind of black pepper but go easy on the salt.
5 - Serve in bowls with fresh parsley and more Parmesan cheese sprinkled on.