If you’ve read my previous risotto post, then you’ll know that I’ve discovered a way to help present this rice dish attractively – the secret, is to use colour. I spent a good deal of time researching into the best way to produce pretty risotto, and eventually decided upon using a puree of the main ingredient to allow the rice carry the primary colour of the dish, thus making it stand out against the plate. In this particular risotto, turmeric and saffron are used to give the rice a bright yellow hue, which contrasts brilliantly with the red tone of the sweet, garlicky, slow-roasted tomatoes.
As a result of the way it is grown, saffron is an expensive spice – reputably the costliest in the world. Picked by hand and almost weightless, accruing enough saffron strands to weigh in as commercially ‘worth it’ pushes the price up considerably. Although the flavour of saffron is strong enough that it can be used sparingly, for this recipe, the small quantity does not provide sufficient colour to dye the grains of rice. To counteract this, I used the spice turmeric – it is considerably cheaper than saffron, and was even historically referred to as ‘Indian Saffron’ as homage to their similar properties without the similar price. It is commonly used outside its native Asia to lend its bright colour to an array of ingredients – the warm, rich, mustard-y qualities of turmeric gives this dish the tint it needs to look inviting and appetising. Moreover, the peppery taste of turmeric means that it does not interfere with the flavour of the saffron, instead complimenting it wonderfully, to give a full-flavoured risotto dish that pairs excellently with the tomatoes.
- 4 salad tomatoes, halved
- A handful of cherry tomatoes on the vine, left whole
- Arborio risotto rice, approximately 100g per person
- 250ml hot vegetable stock per person
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Parmesan shavings, to taste
- Knob of butter
- 1 tsp turmeric
- A few strands of saffron, slightly crushed between fingertips before added
- Dried chili, to taste
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Place the tomatoes on an oven-proof tray, and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of dried chili. Toss gently to ensure all the tomatoes are covered in the oil and seasonings.
- Using a garlic press, squeeze the cloves evenly over the tomatoes and drizzle lightly with a little more oil. Put in the oven, and allow to roast for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and the garlic is sweet.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, begin the risotto. Heat in a large saucepan a little olive oil, and add the risotto rice. It is important to remember pan must reflect the amount of rice – keeping it on ‘one level’ during cooking ensures half doesn’t out-cook the rest, resulting in an unevenly cooked meal! Stir the risotto rice in the oil continuously, until the edges of each grain become slightly transparent.
- Add a ladle of hot stock, and stir. It is incredibly important to add the stock gradually – as it is added, it is absorbed by the rice, cooking it. If it is added too quickly, it will evapourate away but the rice may remain slightly raw. As it is added, it should begin to form a small sauce, and the rice should be tender but with a slight ‘bite’ in the centre. Add ladles of stock as the previous one is absorbed almost fully – if you run out of stock, just use boiling water. This process should take around 20 minutes.
- After the 15 minutes for the tomatoes, remove them from the oven and discard any garlic that is brown or burnt; keep the tomatoes warm.
- Add the turmeric and saffron, and season. Keep on the heat for 5 minutes more to ensure it is all warmed through. Risotto is not meant to be thick, but creamy and spill onto the plate – if yours is too stodgy, add a little more hot water.
- Once the risotto is cooked, take it off the heat, add a knob of butter, and place a lid on the pan. Leave for 2 minutes, and add the shaved parmesan.
- Leave the risotto with a lid on again for around 5 minutes, to allow the flavours to combine, absorbing the butter and cheese for extra ‘ooze’.
- Pour the risotto into a deep bowl, and top with the warm roasted tomatoes. Drizzle a little of the oil the tomatoes were cooked in over the top if it needs further breaking up to ‘ooze’. Season, and serve!