Shrimp risotto in Norway

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From a small island in Tuscany to a small island in Norway: Utsira, well known for listeners of the BBC Shipping Forecast. We are here for a family holiday, a nice respite from the heat of Rome with rain and wind and some very nice days. It is a small island, great for birdwatching and with about 200 residents. Lovely trails to walk, though very wet this week.

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Nordvikvågen, the north end where you can see the ferry has arrived. Excellent connections to Haugesund. Lots of tourist information here, in several languages. Utsira has lots of interesting street art as well, and people are very nice. Highly recommended.

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Anyway, we’d had some excellent fresh sjøkreps for lunch, bought at the very well-stocked grocery store in the south end of the island. These are also called scampi, Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn or langoustine. We volunteered to make risotto for dinner, using the sjøkreps shells to make stock. My parents wanted some shrimp in as well, so I peeled those and threw the heads in the stock pot as well, with a little celery. It simmered for an hour so, then I sieved it through kitchen roll to get the grit out. Just use fish stock if that is easier (I buy fish stock cubes when I am in Norway).

Shrimp risotto for a rainy day

Knob of butter (I made do with rapeseed oil)
One onion, peeled and finely chopped
Three sticks of celery, finely chopped
One cup of risotto rice (I had brought Vialone Nano)
Half a glass of white wine
One litre of seafood stock, just on the boil
Chopped celery leaves
Chopped chives, a generous handful
A cup of peeled shrimp
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of dried chili

Have two pots ready, one to make the risotto in and one for to keep the stock just on the boil. Melt the butter in pot #2, add onion and celery and cook a couple minutes. Add dry rice and let it toast gently with the onion and celery. Add wine. Keep stirring gently. Now start ladling in the hot stock, one ladle at a time. Once that has been absorbed, add another ladle: keep going for 20-25 minutes. Risotto is not complicated, it just takes patience and attention, and a lot of stirring. Nice to do in a holiday kitchen with the windows getting steamy, rain beating against the window and English football on the radio (for my husband).

You’ll be able to feel the rice getting to the right consistency, not too soft but not al dente either. Add the chopped celery leaves and chives, and when it is almost done stir in the shrimp and taste: does it need salt and pepper? Serve and enjoy.

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Seaside risotto with spring onions

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I am back in Accra after a week of holidays on Isola del Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany: good friends, excellent food, and the chance to cook with fresh Italian ingredients. Long lazy mornings with cappuccini and cornetti, morning swims, lunches cobbled together for communal eating in the garden, followed by a siesta, or a swim, before apertivi and dinner. Very relaxing. This was an ad hoc lunch dish: a risotto with spring onions, a side dish for the gluten-avoiders while the rest of us had pasta with pesto.

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Risotto can be made with so many vegetables. Here, the spring onions were left over from making Ottolenghis courgette and herb filo pie for another lunch – very nice! Just being able to cook with a sea breeze and a view like this was lovely.

Seaside risotto with spring onions
One onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbs olive oil
2 cups risotto rice (here arborio, I’d normally use carnaroli)
spalsh of white wine
1 litre simmering stock (vegetable, chicken – I used fish stock as that is what we had)
4-5 spring onions, washed and chopped
handful of fresh basil
pinch of salt and pepper

Optional if not using fish stock: a handful of grated parmesan when serving

Heat the olive oil and fry the chopped onion gently. In a separate pot, keep a litre of stock on a low boil. We’d planned to make takoyaki  (Japanese fried octopus balls) one day so I’d brought fish stock cubes to replace dashi, but we never got around to that, so in the risotto it went.  Add the rice to the pot or pan, to toast it slightly. Add a splash of white wine if you have some handy. Keep the risotto on low heat, enough to keep it boiling slightly. Then add hot stock, one ladle at a time, and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Then add more stock. After five minutes or so, add the chopped sporing onions. Keep adding hot stock, one ladle at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed. I threw in some chopped fresh basil.  Eventually the stock is all added, and the risotto has gone from a al dente to done and a bit starchy. Taste if it needs salt and pepper, and enjoy with a sea view.

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If using a vegetable stock or chicken stock, a generous handful of parmesan right before serving will pull this together nicely.

Potato and leek risotto

Leek for risotto

I had three long leeks stuffed into the fridge, waving their green ends every time the door was opened. Potato and leek soup, I thought, to counterbalance the maltempo (bad weather) expected in Rome over the weekend. Predictions were dire. But Saturday was sunny, the laundry backlog from December was finally cleared, and even Sunday was not bad. We went to the Bar dei Cesaroni, just up the hill, and had coffee, sitting in the pizza next to their grey parrot who’ll say”Ciao!” if in the right mood. A soap opera is based there, so you get grizzled locals there, mixed with Italians posing in front of the bar. Very good spot for a drink or a Sunday morming cappuccino.

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The coffee is good, and the bar is also a shrine to Roma. And the leeks? Well, one ended up in this risotto last night.

Potato and leek risotto

50 grammes chopped guanciale (optional)
1 leek
3 potatoes
t tbs parsley
300 grammes risotto rice (I like Carnaroli)
1.5 litres boiling stock (I use vegetable stock cubes)
salt, pepper
60 grammes grated Parmesan

Fry off your guanciale slightly, if you are using it. (If skipping guanciale, heat 1 tsp of olive oil in pot before adding leek.) Wash and chop your leek, and dice the potatoes. Add these to the pot. No need to peel them if they are thin skinned. After a couple minutes, add the risotto rice, and stir so it absorbs some flavour from the guanciale fat and leek (the potato impact is probably minimal tastewise at this stage.)

In the interim, you’ll have pot number two ready with slightly boiling stock. This you ladle in, little by little, only adding a new ladle of hot broth when the previous broth has been almost absorbed. Keep stirring, so the rice releases starch and the risotto becomes creamier. It will keep absorbing liquid after it stops cooking, but it is helpful to taste the rice and feel it going from slightly hard to a bit al dente, to know when enough is enough. You might not need all the broth, or you might need a splash more water (a little white wine is always nice in risotto as well.) When it looks almost ready, take it off the heat and stir in the grated cheese.

Leek potato risotto

Making risotto is really not hard, and you can add what you like. Over the holidays we had some lovely risotto in Varese: taleggio and orange peel, and saffron and culatello. This was less exotic, but good winter food. This is 4-6 portions, as this is great as leftovers the next day. Risotto is great for making rice fritters as well.

We are having neighbours over for dinner this week, and I am debating what to cook. They are Italian, which means we will serve something foreign. Cooking anything Italian would be rather intimidating when people are so knowledgable and specific on how things should be done. I am thinking Norwegian salmon loin, with red rice and leek. Maybe not with miso this time, hmmmmm….. And sticky toffee pudding was the plan for dessert, but one guest is diabetic so a pavlova might be safer, with just fruit for him. Or a nice orange salad for everyone? Suggestions appreciated!