Risotto is one of my favourite things to cook. It's a blank canvas for all manner of culinary experimentation, as my previous foray into the wonderful world of gin risotto has already demonstrated.
Much of my experimentation comes from a) the need to use up stuff before it goes off, and b) a lack of the correct type of booze hanging about the house. The sharpest knives in the cutlery drawer will have already deduced that this time around, I had visited the reduced aisle of the supermarket and procured beetroot, lardons, feta cheese, and a half-dead rosemary plant. The gourmet gods were smiling upon me that day.
I pootled smugly home and decided that risotto was going to be my creation in this real-life episode of Ready, Steady, Cook. Then I realised I only had red wine or banana liqueur to choose from, booze-wise. Tempting as banana risotto sounds, this beetroot and bacon red wine risotto was born. It looks great, tastes even better, and you can add or substitute all sorts of ingredients - mushrooms and chorizo would work especially well with the red wine.
Beetroot & Bacon Red Wine Risotto (serves 4)
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: About 20 minutes
You will need:
- A glug of olive oil
- A small knob of butter
- 400g arborio rice (or another type of risotto rice)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- A large glass of red wine (as much or as little as you want, really)
- 1.2 litres hot chicken stock
- 100-150g smoked bacon lardons
- 3-4 small peeled and cooked beetroots (I buy the prepared and vacuum-packed ones from the supermarket), roughly chopped
- A couple of large sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
- The juice of half a lemon
- 100-150g feta cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil and butter. Add the rice and garlic and stir well until the rice starts to turn translucent.
- Chuck in the wine, and continue to stir until the liquid has been absorbed.
- As soon as the wine has vanished, add a ladleful of hot chicken stock and turn down the heat a little. The stock will bubble away, and you should stir constantly as the rice sticks to the bottom of the pan the moment your back is turned. It's like it KNOWS.
- Once the first ladle of stock has been absorbed, add another, and so on until the rice is cooked - it'll be creamy and oozy when it's done. You might not need all the stock, or you might need to top up the liquid with boiling water - either is normal and doesn't mean you've gone wrong.
- While the risotto is cooking, fry the bacon lardons in a little oil until golden brown. Once they're done, and the rice is ready, take the risotto pan off the heat.
- Throw in the bacon, a wee bit of the frying oil (not all of it, otherwise you'll have an oily risotto and a sad face), plus the beetroot, rosemary, and lemon juice.
- Place back on to a low heat and stir gently to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste - bearing in mind that we're about to chuck in some salty feta.
- Finally, remove the pan from the heat, and crumble in the feta, keeping a little bit aside to sprinkle over the finished dish. Stir, let the risotto sit for a couple of minutes, then serve with some feta on top.