The perfect risotto is effortless. With the right rice, it practically makes itself. For our pre-Valentine's day dinner I made us a mushroom and asparagus risotto with Vialone Nano rice. This I bought from the over-priced deli Raoul up the road from me. I wouldn't go there for their traiteur style meals, but they do stock an excellent, if slightly pricey, range of groceries. You can buy risotto rice with truffle, and foie gras in tins here.
I made my mushroom and asparagus risotto with Marigold vegetable stock powder - a bit of a cheat's way of doing it but it is okay, I think. Raoul sell a nice variety of cheeses and there's a crumbling of Pecorino Nero and a drizzle of truffle oil on top. I oomphed the mushroom content by using some rehydrated porcini mushrooms - perhaps a bit too oomphed as there was a hint of mustiness that I would have preferred absent in the resulting dish. Needless to say the truffle oil was also from Raoul.
Above you can see a salade composée with lebanese cucumber, tomato, olives and lebanese yoghurt. Dessert was a Syrian cheesecake I bought from the Arabic dessert place on Edgeware Rd. There is a crispy noodley topping made from semolina on the actual sweet cheese underneath.
Tonight's dinner is a fennel risotto made with chicken stock from Daylesford Organic Farm. There's a wonderful organic butcher up the road from Raoul, Silverside run by the friendliest HK proprietress I've come across. We chatted briefly about how one can place an order for fresh fish and pick it up from her shop as she partners with a Japanese chef to visit the Billingsgate markets on Friday mornings. I also bought some organic chicken marylands that I'm roasting with some lemon rind. I've always liked the taste of organic meat, but I make no illusions as to why I buy it - it's the taste. I don't buy it because it's, "Better for the animals" as a friend's acquaintance liked to justify. For if so, it would be better not to eat them in the first place, right? I vividly remember my grandmother slaughtering chickens in our backyard from childhood. The trick to removing the feathers is to blanch the whole bird in boiling water after it has been bled to death. Once, the bird had not quite died yet and was only unconscious. So, when she dipped it head first into the hot bucket of water, it woke up and screamed its head off. For years I thought that was how you killed chickens - by dunking them in boiling water - but could never figure out why it was usually so silent most of the time.
I've paired the fennel with a hint of thyme - a herb that I'm exploring at the moment. My Italian colleague informs me that finocchio, the Italian word for fennel, also means 'gay'. So here I present: Risotto al'finocchio (Gay Risotto).