Friday, 6 February 2009

Beetroot, Ginger & Chocolate Risotto

You learn something new every day, or so the saying goes. Did you know, for example, that the first meal that was eaten on the moon by Armstrong and Aldrin was a roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings (freeze dried, one would assume)?

Or that sperm swim faster after they have been exposed to caffeine?

Or that the largest beetroot ever grown was over 18 feet in length?

Or that it is near impossible to take a good photo of a risotto? Especially a risotto that I promised you good people a couple of weeks ago (you'd thought I'd forgotten, hadn't you?)

It’s true – no matter how appealing it may look on the plate, in photographic form it will almost always take on the appearance of lumpy aardvark vomit.

You could gild it with gold leaf, adorn it with asparagus and top it with truffles but under the lights and through a lens it will still look about as appealing as a jock strap salad.

We tried. We really did. But even the best photo we got wouldn’t have looked out of place in a crime scene report. So you’ll have to make do with this representation instead. And the best thing about beetroot risotto is the colour anyway. So sit back, use your imagination and take note. Recipe below.

It’s hard to write a definitive recipe for risotto. There are so many variations (rice absorbency, stock quality, stirring capacity) that I hesitate to make any assertions for fear I will end up with angry emails and comments.

Instead, use this as a platform, a launch pad, or a mere eyebrow-raiser. All I will say is that it is certainly worth trying and that there is true deliciousness hidden behind the vaguely bizarre veneer of the combination of ingredients.

The Ingredients – should serve four

Olive oil or butter (about 25g)
A pinch of bicarbonate of soda
A small onion, or three/four shallots finely chopped
Two cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A teaspoon of grated ginger
Four or five small beetroot, roasted in the skins (in a sealed foil package for about an hour), peeled and diced into teeny, tiny pieces.
Risotto rice (Arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano) – about 250g
A small glass of white wine or white vermouth
Chicken or vegetable Stock (impossible to say how much you will need but most likely about a litre), in a pan on a gentle heat.
The darkest dark chocolate you can find, preferably 70%+ cocoa solids

The method

You all know how to make risotto, right? You’re going to find this incredibly patronising if you are talked through each step in the manner of a sports teacher humiliating the fat kid aren’t you? Oh well, here goes:

Put the onion and garlic in a large, heavy bottomed pan along with the olive oil or butter. Turn on the heat (low – see here for why) and add the bicarb (this helps soften the onion and bring out the flavours. I learnt why here). Fry gently for 10 minutes, or until you have a delicious pulpy mass of onion and garlic. Add the ginger and stir.

Crank up the heat. Pour in the rice, stir and cook off for about a minute to start it toasting. Add the wine or vermouth. It should sizzle and give off a fairly potent steam of near pure alcohol. Stir again (can you see a theme developing?). Tip in the beetroot. Admire the colour. Go on, you know you want to. Stir.

The stock (which is in a pan on a gentle heat, right?) can now be ladled in bit by bit. Stir. Stir some more. When almost all the stock has been absorbed add another ladle full. Stir. Keep stirring.

Repeat the above until the rice is cooked – usually about forty minutes. By this point your arm will aching and you should have worked up a considerable appetite with all that stirring.

Spoon onto a plate, grate the chocolate over the top. Admire the colour once more and eat.

One final point – risotto should be soft, it should spread evenly and slowly over the plate like a slew of molten lava running down a volcano. You shouldn’t be able to slice it.

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dp said...

Well the process seems easy enough, right? BUT I always get a mass of blown out rice. I've tried cooking it slowly, cooking it quickly. I just want the grains to hold their shape while the overall result is thick and creamy!

Maybe it's the brand of rice? I know there's a difference with pasta and so I only buy two brands. Maybe I will explore this aspect some more.

Kathleen Bade said...

I learned a lot today about beetroot.

Beetroot, Ginger and chocolate.

WHO KNEW??!!! You did.

right on.

Maggie said...

From the title I was expecting a sweet/dessert risotto. I must have been thinking about beet-chocolate cake but since there's garlic and onion I guess not.

You think risotto is hard to photograph? I had these delicious chicken livers that I really wanted to post but they look like the stuff my dogs leave in the backyard. Oh well, on to some cupcakes instead.