Beetroot Risotto: A Wintery First Course

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Walking the fine savoury/sweet line

As the temperatures drop below 25 Celsius in Dubai (crazy, I know) I find myself longing for heartier and deeper or richer flavoured dishes. This risotto here really does the trick. Not only is the bright burgundy super sexy and inviting, but the risotto straddles that really interesting divide between sweet, savoury, rich and sharp. Sweet notes are thanks to the beetroot being incorporated all the way through the dish, but then, as with any risotto, if the stock used is good, then the whole dish will be built on a strong savory/umami rich foundation. The sour cream finish at the end, along with the crumbled feta and the balsamic (or pomegranate molasses) lift up the dish and add a very welcome sharp/salty note.

Makes 4 first course servings

2 cups of risotto rice, carnaroli and arborio are the most readily available varieties.

1.5L of excellent chicken stock, it needs to be well heated when cooking. A good post on stock here

2-3 roasted and peeled beetroots

1 tbsp of sour cream or cultured creme fraiche

1/2 cup of dry white wine

1 tbsp of butter

Olive oil

1 medium onion chopped finely

To finish:

A bit of crumbled feta

Some toasted pine-nuts

About 1 tsp of proper aged balsamic vinegar or pomegratante molasses per plate

About half of the beets to be cut into small cubes and sauteed in butter and then placed on each plate

First thing to do is to roast the beets and prepare them for the risotto. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius, place the beets in a baking tray or dish, unpeeled, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and cover with aluminiun foil, cook in the oven for about 30-40min until the beets are tender when poked with a fork. Once cooked, remove and set aside to cool, peeling the beets will be very easy this way. Dice half (if you only used 2 large beets, if you used three smaller beets then dice a whole beet and reserve the other two for the rice) a beet into small cubes to use as finish on the plate. Process the remaining beets in a food processor until the form a smooth paste and reserve to cook with the risotto.

It might be useful to give this post about making risotto a read before you start.

In a wide pot over a medium high heat, put in a couple of lugs of olive oil and the butter, once they heat up and the butter stops frothing, add the onions and toss about until the soften but don’t really color, say 3-5mins. Add the rice and toss about for another 3 or so minutes, and then add the white wine and stir until its all absorbed. Now it’s time for the stock, add the stock in about a single cups measure for the first time and stir in until it’s almost all absorbed, then add the stock by the ladle-ful, making sure each ladle is absorbed before adding the next, continue stirring as the rice cook to encourage the starches the seep out of the rice and give the risotto its natural creaminess. About 15 or so minutes in, the risotto should almost done, add the creme fraiche and stir in the beetroot paste two tablespoons at a time until you get the desired colour and flavour (you want to taste the actual beetroot but still get the richness of the stock and a note of sourness from the sour cream) add one last ladle of stock and stir in and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Remember, you always want your risotto to seem more runny than required when in the pan. As it is served and sits on the plate it will firm up a bit. Serve up the plates, and finish with the feta, pine nuts, beet cubes and the balsamic or molasses. Hope you enjoy!

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