“Tomato Risotto” from “Superfood Family Classics”

img_7952Oh my. This is going to be a long month.

Risotto: What’s not to love? Going back through the Cookbook a Month archives, it appears that this family has tested at least 12 different recipes for risotto through the years. Our love of risotto goes back even further, as I distinctly recall the first time I made it, using a recipe from the Chicago Tribune written by the head chef of the Clinton White House.

That’s the FIRST Clinton White House. Yes. I’m dating myself.

But back to the latest test. As anyone who’s made risotto knows, the key to a successful risotto is lashings of butter and cheese. I’m pretty sure that in Jamie Oliver’s earliest books, he called for exactly that. Unfortunately, this one had neither.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with this risotto.

In fact, as we were discussing it as a family, we started to use air quotes around the word risotto every time we used the word. I think that tells you everything you need to know.

Aside from the obvious lack of butter and cheese, I feel what this “risotto” lacked was any sort of goodness. It didn’t taste horrible, but neither did it taste lovely or joyful. It tasted as if it had been devised by a nutritionist who had to write recipes for someone who was recovering from triple-bypass heart surgery who needs to give up all fat and tasty ingredients.

Alas, we are not recovering from triple-bypass surgery.

I know that Jamie is now studying to be a nutritionist (through private tutors, natch), but I really do think this recipe signals an unhappy way forward for him. Good on him for wanting to make everyone eat better and with more awareness of good nutrition, but what happened to the Joyful Jamie we knew and loved? You know the one: put in a nob of butter here, a few turns of parmesan there, bingo.

This tastes and feels as though the recipe was written by committee. This is not a good thing.

Would we eat it again? Obviously, no. We’ll return to those that call for lashings of butter and cheese. It makes us all happier.

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“Tomato Risotto” from “Superfood Family Classics”

“Asparagus Risotto” from “Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube”

IMG_6992When I made this dinner, I knew this would be a sure thing. There isn’t often in life where you can be certain that “A Sure Thing” will materialise– see the 1985* movie with John Cusack if you don’t know what I’m talking about– but this is one of those times.

*PLEASE BE PATIENT FOR A MOMENT WHILE I HAVE A PERSONAL FREAK OUT KNOWING THAT THIS FILM– ONE OF MY FAVOURITES– IS 30 YEARS OLD THIS YEAR. OK. I think I”m done.*

We’ve always loved risotto. I’ve been making it since we were first married– it was a recipe from Bill Clinton’s White House, so that tells you how long ago that was. After we moved here in 1999, I made it again (and again and again) when I watched Jamie Oliver do it on his first series, “The Naked Chef.”

I’ve got the method down pat now. Gennaro Contaldo, the star of this video, does a good job of showing people how to best make risotto, if they’ve never done it before. Two of the unique things he did in his version of asparagus risotto were first to cut the asparagus into slivers, and then to take the tips and cut them in half vertically. Excellent tips, both.

This was a sure thing. Everyone loved it. At the end of the video, Gennaro takes a bite and says, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I feel exactly the same way whenever I have risotto. Love it.

If you’d like to see the video yourself, it’s here:

“Asparagus Risotto” from “Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube”

“Triple Tomato Risotto” from “Mary Berry Cooks”

CBAMRisottoNicholas (10): What is this?

Maureen: Everybody’s favourite: Risotto! What do you think?

Andrew (14): I think the tomato is overpowering, and it takes away from the risotto taste.

Nicholas: I agree. It’s like there’s two tastes that both want attention, and neither is winning.

Tim: I think it’s like a party in my mouth where I don’t know too many people.

Andrew: So it’s sort of awkward.

Nicholas: It sounds like a bad party to me.

Tim: Also, the creamy goodness of a typical risotto doesn’t come through.

Maureen: That’s because there’s no parmesan and butter to finish it off, like I usually do. Mary uses creme fraiche instead, which I think is a bit of a cheat.

Tim: Also, I think the tomatoes are too acidic and the peas don’t add anything.

Maureen: Yes. I am befuddled by the peas. Why add them at all if it’s called a triple tomato risotto? Also, it’s not just tomatoes that are in here, she also uses red peppers, not to mention the peas. I think calling it a garden vegetable risotto would be more accurate.

Tim: I think the peas were there to just add some contrast.

Maureen: So, not a winner then.

Andrew: No. Just make our usual risotto next time.

Maureen: Agreed.

“Triple Tomato Risotto” from “Mary Berry Cooks”

“Pea, Asparagus and Mint Risotto” from “Gino’s Italian Escape”

CBAMRisottoNicholas (10): Yeah! Risotto!

Maureen: Yes. It’s everyone’s favourite. What do you think?

Andrew (14): There’s something strange in there.

Maureen: That would be the mint. I don’t think I’ve ever made a risotto with mint in it.

Andrew: Well, I don’t like it.

Nicholas: Neither do I.

Tim: What’s with the asparagus this time of year? Talk about food miles.

Maureen: Yes, the asparagus did come all the way from Peru to join us.

Tim: That’s absurd.

Maureen: I agree. But I wanted to make risotto, and this one sounded nice.

Tim: Well, the next time you want to make an asparagus risotto, wait until the spring, when they’re in season here.

Maureen: I completely agree.

Andrew: This is fine, but I like our usual risotto better.

Nicholas: Me too.

Maureen: Do you mean the one with lashings of butter and cheese?

Tim: Yup. That’s the one.

Maureen: OK. So noted on the record. No asparagus in autumn and lashings of butter and cheese. Got it.

“Pea, Asparagus and Mint Risotto” from “Gino’s Italian Escape”

“Risotto with Peas and Greens” from “It’s All Good”

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Kirstin: I had a lovely time getting this risotto ready even though I am the world’s worst stirrer.

Tom: It smelt delicious from upstairs.

Kirstin: It tastes good too. I particularly love the lemon.

Tom: And no cheese, you say?

Kirstin: None of that bad boy nonsense for Gwyneth!

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“Risotto with Peas and Greens” from “It’s All Good”

“Arancini” from “Polpo”

Maureen: I finally made arancini successfully! Hooray!

Tim: I made arancini once.

Maureen: You did? I don’t remember that.

Nicholas (9): Pictures or it didn’t happen, Dad. You know the rules.

Maureen: What do you think?

Tim: They are super-cool-awesome!

CBAMArancini

Maureen: Thanks. I am pretty pleased with them. What do you think boys?

Andrew (13): Eh. (Shrugs shoulders, to Maureen’s dismay.)

Nicholas: They’re OK, I guess.

Tim: Did you dip them in egg?

Maureen: I didn’t have to. The risotto was so creamy that you didn’t have to dip it in egg to make the polenta stick. Continue reading ““Arancini” from “Polpo””

“Arancini” from “Polpo”

“Butternut Risotto” from “Polpo”

Maureen: Another one for Meat Free Monday. What do you think?

Andrew (13): It’s nice.

Nicholas (9): I”m not so sure.

Maureen: I think it’s great. It was a total faff to make it, compared to other risottos I’ve made, but it’s still good. I needed to make my own vegetarian stock. The next time I make this, I’ll just use standard vegetable stock, like I always do.

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Andrew: Actually, the more I eat it, the less sure about it I am.

Nicholas: Yes, I agree. I don’t think I like it.

Maureen: What’s not to like about it?

Andrew: Well, the butternut squash. (Maureen looks over and realises that Andrew is eating only the rice and is eating AROUND the butternut squash. Nicholas starts to do the same.)

Maureen: How could you not like butternut squash? It’s great.

Andrew: I just don’t, that’s all.

Nicholas: Me neither.

Maureen: Obviously you take after your father in that regard. He doesn’t like it either. I think you’re all crazy. It’s good and I like it.

Andrew: I like the other risotto you make better.

Maureen: Which one?

Andrew: Any of them.

Nicholas: Yes, any risotto but this one would be good the next time you make risotto.

Maureen: OK. So not a firm family favourite then. If I make it again, I’ll make it for myself.

Cook’s Notes: As noted above, they want you to make the vegetable stock yourself while you’re roasting the butternut squash. Frankly, I don’t think it was worth the effort. In fact, I found the stock somewhat lacking in flavour and ending up adding a dash of vegetable stock bouillon just so it wouldn’t taste of water.

However, I did glean one excellent tip from this recipe. In the past, whenever I roasted butternut squash inevitably some of it ended up burned. To counteract this, Polpo recommends covering the squash with foil when you’re roasting it. It was a perfect solution, and no squash was burned in the making of this recipe.

“Butternut Risotto” from “Polpo”