You know how you always think that the you of a few years back was such a loser? Like when you look at pictures of yourself from ten years ago, and you think “Oh God, did I actually wear that shit?” or “How did I not realise I looked like a massive twat with that hair?”. I always feel that this phenomenon is even worse when it applies to intellectual and creative endeavours. Try reading the papers you wrote in your first year of uni. Typical reactions will range from the relatively mild “That’s some creative reasoning there” to flat-out “How on earth did I get a degree?” We all grow, and whilst this is a good thing, it can be slightly embarrassing to look back to our former, worse versions.
The same thing happens to me when I check out my first blog posts. They were atrocious. No pictures, no proper layout, no hope. I can’t even believe people read it back then, but some people must have, because I did get some comments. It was mostly my closest friends and my mum in those days, I guess.
One day, my Canadian friend, who knows about these things because she’s a photographer and therefore visually more talented than me, told me that I needed more pictures, and mostly I needed bigger, nicer pictures. “This is a blog about food. People want to see that shit, or they will never cook it.” she told me. And of course she was right. So I started taking pictures of everything I published here. The whole project got a lot more time-consuming from that point onwards, but that’s OK.
Anyway, sometimes I’ll read back something from quite a while ago, because that’s how this whole thing started, as a sort of public, food-related Captain’s Log. And sometimes I’ll find shit that I don’t even agree with anymore. That’s OK, too, opinions can change. So here’s an opinion of mine that has changed:
Home-made stock is flippin’ awesome and everyone should always use it for risotto.
Back in the days I had a little rant about home-made stock – how could a recipe insist on something as preposterous as home-made stock, no-one even makes their own stock, gahh so pretentious. But now I live in Italy, and Blenderman, always Blenderman, has shown me the light. Because making chicken stock or beef stock, fair enough, that stuff takes time. But actually, making vegetable stock, which is the only kind of stock I use frequently anyway, is dead easy and it’s done in no time – you can start it as you start preparing your risotto and it’ll be done before you even need it. It won’t contain any of the dubious shite that you get in stock cubes (like e-numbers that no one really understands), because it’ll all be fresh, oh my god so fressshhh. So here, I take that shit back. Home-made stock is awesome.
Red wine gorgonzola/radicchio risotto, made with home-made stock to celebrate the awesomeness of home-made stock!
For a couple of litres of stock use:
- a largeish carrot
- 1 largeish onion
- a couple of stalks of celery
- some fresh herbs of your own choice – I like to use sage and bay leaf
- completely optional, you can add a clove of garlic
- some salt
- obviously, two litres of water
For the risotto, to feed about 5 people a nice starter, use:
- 8 fistfuls of arborio rice
- one smallish radicchio (or Italian chicory, as it’s apparently called in some parts of the world (although definitely not in Italy, that would be weird))
- about 150 gr of gorgonzola
- half a red onion
- a generous glass of red wine
- a small knob of butter
- freshly grated parmesan, 3 tbsp plus extra to serve
So first of all, you peel your carrot and your onion, you chop them and the celery in large chunks and then you chuck them in a large pan with 2 litres of water, your herbs and half a fistful of salt. Put it on the fire, bring to the boil and let it simmer for as long as you like (but at least half an hour).
In the meantime, prepare your risotto. Slice up your onion in the smallest possible little bits. Use about half the radicchio now, half of it later. Chop one half up into bits varying in size from very small to medium. Put them in a deep frying pan, preferably with a heavy base, together with some olive oil, some butter (yes, both!) and the chopped onion. Stir until it’s nice and tender. Add the rice. Stir it around until the kernels are covered in a film of grease, then add the wine. Stir calmly and frequently, but not obsessively, until all or most of the wine has evaporated.
Now you can get your stock out! Use a cup or a ladle to spoon in a smallish quantity of stock with your risotto every time. Stir, leave for a minute, until it’s all dissolved, and then add the next ladleful. Keep doing this until your risotto is cooked, which will probably take a little over half an hour.
Just before the risotto is completely done and about to be served up, say, 10 minutes before that point, quickly slice up another quarter of radicchio into thin strips and add those to the risotto, along with a few nice large chunks of gorgonzola adding up to about 3/4 of your total of gorgonzola. Mix well.
Last two minutes of cooking time, add in the last gorgonzola and some grated parmesan.
Serve up: top with some more grated parmesan and some fresh, thinly sliced radicchio. Woah dude.