You guys. It's been so long! I owe you an apology. As I mentioned in my past few posts I've been horribly busy, and then a few things happened which made me a very gloomy little bear, and I basically lost all interest in any food that wasn't pizza. And then (and then!) I got sick, and I am still a bit sick, and it feels like my brain is making a wild dash for freedom via my nose. Isn't that always the way? The moment you stop having tonnes of work to do, you get ill. Classic. But, working my little butt off for a few weeks now means I'm home, and gloriously work-free, until the end of January. The end of January! And you guys, I'm so happy to be back home for the holidays. The decorations are up, the lights are twinkling, and I've eaten my body weight in mince pies & stollen. 'Tis the season, after all! Plus, to make up for my absence, I've come up with a little Christmas plan which will hopefully make it up to you just a little bit. 12 Days of Christmas Recipes! Beginning this Friday, Friday the 13th, I will be posting a different Christmassy recipe every day on the countdown to the big day. So that means 12 days of delicious festive goodness will be coming your way! I can't wait to get started; I've got so many exciting things to share with you guys & I even bought fancy Christmas napkins to take fancy food photos. Such is my level of dedication to the Christmassy cause. So, do you forgive me yet?
But before that, I have to share this risotto with you. We all know how evocative food can be of certain memories, and this risotto is the ultimate nostalgia food for me. My first ever boyfriend used to make it for me all the time, and it was the first thing he taught me how to cook. Since then I've adjusted the recipe a little bit to make it my own, but all the memories of that head-over-heels teenage love come flooding back with every bite. It's also the first meal that I really thought I was good at making, so we can probably credit this dish (and that boy) with igniting a love of cooking - not only of food. I still make it whenever I'm having a really bad day, or whenever I have people coming over and I need to make something delicious & impressive, but still fairly easy and not too expensive.
I begin with melted butter, which of course you could substitute with olive oil if you wanted to, but I absolutely love the buttery flavour - and you know me; if I can make something even more rich & indulgent, I will. Four chopped leeks & a generous sprinkling of tarragon are then added, and if you haven't tried leek & tarragon together, you need to. You won't regret it. Next you tip in the risotto rice, coat up the whole mixture in melted butter, and then slowly feed the risotto with white wine & stock for the next half hour or so. I know I've made an oven-cooked risotto before, and I expect you could cook this in an oven with similar results (and it would certainly save you time), but for me the soothing process of standing & stirring at the stove is all part of the restorative nature of this food. After a while the risotto will becoming creamy and delicious - at which time we make it even more creamy & delicious with a generous handful (or two) of grated cheddar cheese. I used a medium cheddar, which gives this dish just enough cheesey flavour without being too overwhelming. If you'd prefer a slightly milder, creamy taste then go with a mild cheddar, but if strong cheese is your jam then stick some extra mature in there. As always, adjust the flavour & amount according to preference. After all, this is a recipe which I've made my own over the years, so now it's your turn to make it yours.
To make enough for 2, you will need:
- Four leeks.
- 150g butter.
- Approx 200g risotto rice.
- A large glass of white wine.
- Approx 800ml chicken or vegetable stock.
- 1 tablespoon of dried tarragon.
- Approx 2 handfuls of grated cheddar cheese.
- Black pepper.
1. On a medium-high heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan.
2. Wash & peel the leeks, then roughly chop into bitesize chunks.
3. Add the leeks into the melted butter, along with approximately a tablespoon of dried tarragon.
4. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture together for a few moments.
5. Add in 200g of risotto rice and stir together until each grain is covered in melted butter.
6. Tip in a large glass of white wine. Any wine will do, it doesn't matter how cheap, but dry white wine is better than sweet.
7. Stir continuously until the wine is absorbed.
8. Begin adding the stock, a little bit at a time. Stir continuously with the wooden spoon until the stock is completely absorbed before adding a little more. Add approximately 200ml at a time and do take your time with this dish, feeding it slowly & enjoying the process of watching it get creamier and more delicious before your eyes. Put some music on, drink a bit of wine, or do what I did and facetime a friend as you stir. Relax, chill out, and let all the stress of the day disappear as you take this small amount of time to yourself.
9. Once the rice is creamy, and it seems to be sticking together a little bit, taste it to find out when it's done. This, again, is totally up to preference - the boy who first made this for me liked his rice to be a little undercooked so that it still had some bite, whilst I tend to overcook mine so that it becomes extra creamy and smooth. It's totally up to you! Just keep adding stock & stirring until you're ready to tuck in.
10. Once all the stock has been absorbed & you're happy with the rice, remove from the heat and add in a few handfuls of grated cheese. Stir until all the cheese has melted in.
Serve in large bowls & sprinkle with a generous amount of cracked black pepper. I don't recommend skipping this step, since it really enhances the flavour of the dish. You're of course welcome to add salt if you feel it necessary, but I've always found that the stock makes it salty enough. Enjoy with someone you love (or are at least mildly fond of), or just enjoy it all by yourself, reaping the smooth & creamy rewards of a quiet and calm hour in the kitchen. And don't we all need those hours sometimes.