I adore a risotto. For me if is the ultimate in comfort eating and beats a bowl of pasta hands down. And I love pasta….but somehow the tiny swollen grains, infused with all the goodness of stock and aromatics; cooked until just yielding but with a little bite (we don’t want baby food here!) offers just the right amount of solace with a sophistication that is yours to add as you will. Once you have mastered the basic method the risotto world really is your oyster and as long as you always bear in mind flavour pairings you can indulge or not as you please. Vegetarians and vegans need never be left out – a good vegetable stock works just as well as chicken. Cheese can be replaced with a vegan version and no one will ever object to a final flourish of an excellent, grass green olive oil anointing the finished dish. Otherwise I find just a tablespoon of double cream can transform a risotto into something truly special. It is, after all meant to be a creamy dish – achieved by the fat grains of risotto rice bumping slowly into each other whilst being stirred over a gentle heat. Baked risotto will never achieve quite the same as the grains won’t move around if just left in the oven.
This radicchio and Gorgonzola risotto is, for me a sophisticated and thoroughly delicious partnership. I do, often, add in a coarsely grated courgette. It is just a way of keeping the calorie count down but not everyone will want or need this option. I just use a little less rice to make way for the courgette and I think here it goes well. Fennel herb is lovely if you happen to have any in the garden or have bought a particularly frondy fennel bulb but finely chopped parsley will do perfectly.
For Four people
1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil and small knob butter
1 large or 2 smaller sticks celery
1 clove garlic (optional)
Fresh thyme, picked off the stalk, about 1 tablespoon
4 handfuls of risotto rice (I use carnaroli)
75ml white vermouth (approx) or white wine
One head of radicchio, shredded
750ml (you may need more) proper chicken or vegetable stock (in desperation you could use a gel cube or combine the two)
1 courgette, optional, grated coarsely
100g creamy Gorgonzola dolce
2 tablespoons double cream
Freshly chopped fennel or parsley
Sea salt and black pepper
Heat a large shallow pan. Add the oil and the butter and then gently sauté the onion and celery over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not let them colour. Add the finely chopped garlic and stir around for a minute or two. Add the rice and stir that so that it is coated in everything.
Have your stock simmering in a separate pan. Pour the vermouth or wine into your rice and stir, simmering until almost all has disappeared. Then add the thyme and a third of the radicchio. Stirring all the time over a gentle heat add ladles of stock. Keep bubbling very gently, it should be just rippling. Stir as much as you have time for, adding stock as soon as the last ladleful is absorbed. After ten minutes add another third of the radicchio. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked but still with a tiny bit of bite to it. It will take 20 – 30 minutes. Near the end of the rice cooking time, add the cream and chopped Gorgonzola. Stir through with the rest of the radicchio and the herbs. Also the courgette if using. Cook until the radicchio has wilted. Adjust with a little more stock to loosen. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.
Take off the heat and stir through a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan. Serve with more parmesan offered separately.