Travelling here, there and everywhere is unsettling at times. It always takes me a while to get acclimatised once back at home and despite finding cooking remarkably relaxing and therapeutic, I often struggle to get back in to the familiar groove of daily routine, family meals and planning shopping. Instead I crave quick, easy suppers with limited washing up and preparation time, often using whatever I have in the store cupboard and not go charging about to the supermarket.
Add to my current state of de-stabilisation a large dose of stress, a sudden influx of work and if I’m honest I just want to hide away. I am juggling the desire to eat well with a severe lack of creative energy. I want to be cooked for, or at least if I have to cook I want to be able to rustle up something that’s quick but also delicious, comforting and soothing. A recovery dish.
If I’m looking for comfort food then risotto is one of my favourites. Deep, intense, savoury flavours, but also rich and satiating. Laden with cheese and butter, with a hint of wine or vermouth. I love all risotto, whether it be full of parmesan, seafood, a gorgeous mushroom one cooked for me by a lovely friend, or a kid friendly one that my daughter loves with chicken, fresh herbs and a dollop of mascarpone.
Once, when I was still working as a researcher I stayed in Oxford for a week. Life can get lonely when you go away to work, so my trick was always to find a good restaurant and a friendly bar. The restaurant I found in Oxford was Branca, a popular Italian on the edge of the trendy Jericho district. With welcoming staff and no urge to usher me out the door I often lingered over my evening meals, plus it was the place where I ate the best risotto I have ever had. I can’t to this day work out what made it so good….I know it had masala in it and finished with perfectly cooked scallops. It was so good I ordered it three nights in a row. I haven’t been to Oxford since so have no idea if they still make it, but the memory stayed with me.
My festival recovery risotto was less glamorous, but no less tasty. Chorizo is another favourite and armed with my stash from Trealy Farm a tin of artichokes I found in the cupboard, and some left over parmesan I set to cooking.
Chorizo and artichoke risotto (serves up to 4 people)
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic (or I used a quarter of a bulb of elephant garlic) finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
350g arborio rice
1 stick of Trealy farm sweet chorizo diced
750ml hot vegetable (or chicken) stock
6 artichokes, quartered taken from a tin
50g parmesan cheese (with a bit extra to grate on top)
Melt the butter and oil in a large pan and add onion. Sweat without browning for about 5 to 10 minutes or so. Add the garlic and rice and stir well to coat. Cook until the rice begins to turn slightly translucent (about 5 minutes) then turn the heat up a little and add the vermouth. Allow to bubble until the vermouth has almost been absorbed into the rice then begin to add the stock a ladle full at a time, waiting until it’s totally absorbed before adding the next. It’s not necessary to stir continuously, but it is important to stir or shake the pan frequently to make sure the rice doesn’t stick and the starch in the rice has broken down. You may well run out of stock; if you do just add a little boiling water, but don’t over do it. You are looking for the rice to be ‘al dente’, soft, but with a bit of bite which should take about 15-20 minutes. If you want it softer just cook for another 5 minutes, but don’t overdo it.
In a separate pan heat a little oil and when hot chuck in your chorizo. Fry briskly until just beginning to crisp then remove with a slotted spoon and add to the risotto.
Turn off the heat and add another knob of butter, the grated parmesan and the artichokes. Check seasoning then put a lid on the pan and allow to rest for a couple of minutes.