There is great joy to be had in standing over a stove stirring a risotto, with a crisp Pinot Gris in hand. It's an experience of sorts. The aroma of onion melding with the butter and olive oil, the hissing sound as the wine hits the pan, and the delicate process of watching the arborio absorb the stock. It takes time. It requires patience. And it leaves you appreciative of the effort that went into creating each comforting bowl.
I recently added Sicily by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi to my recipe book collection. It's a beautifully photographed book. One that leaves you dreaming of a rendezvous with the Italian island. It shares recipes like sunset agnolotti stuffed with sea bass, and clementine and almond slice. As well as the interesting history of Sicily and why their food is so eclectic.
The orange and basil risotto in particular has become a family favourite. I often rotate it with the cherry tomato risotto, also included in the book. And I like that it allows me to reminisce about my time along the Amalfi Coast, where oranges were growing on trees and sold in roadside fruit stands in abundance.
Orange & basil risotto
50 g salted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil,
plus extra to serve
1 shallot, finely chopped
300 g Arborio or carnaroli rice
100 ml white wine
juice and finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1-1.2 litres hot chicken or vegetable stock
50 g Parmesan, finely grated
salt, to taste
small handful of basil leaves,
roughly torn, to garnish
Heat the oil and half the butter in a large saucepan - the oil helps to stop the butter burning. When the butter has melted, soften the shallot with some salt and pepper over a low heat for around 10 minutes.
Add the rice to the pan and allow it to toast for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until all the grains are covered in the butter and oil. Pour in the wine and allow to evaporate for 2-3 minutes.
Ladle in around 500ml of the stock and the zest and juice of the orange and mix quickly into the rice. Stir frequently, keeping the heat medium-low. When the risotto thickens to the point where you can see the bottom of the pan when you draw the spoon across it, add another ladleful of stock.
After about 20 minutes taste the risotto to see whether it is done. The rice grains should be clear on the outside but still have a little white centre; they should feel soft on the outside with a hint of firmness in the centre. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Remove the pan from the heat. It is better to leave it slightly soupy as the liquid will continue to be absorbed over the following few minutes.
Beat in the remaining butter and the Parmesan - this will make your risotto creamy. Cover the pan and allow the risotto to rest for 3-5 minutes. Serve in warm bowls, drizzled with a good olive oil and garnished with a few torn or small basil leaves.