When I first got to London I was told: "If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes. It's bound to change."
Although the ten minutes bit was a little optimistic, it certainly is true that the weather here seems to have no concept of consistency. The one minute (i.e. last Saturday) it truly is spring, with daffodils nodding their heads along every road, kids riding their bikes and adults snoozing in deckchairs in the park. The next minute (this week) it's as if somebody opened the big fridge door in the sky and all the penguins cam marching out on a blast of cold air, pushing us straight back into winter. Somebody told me there may be snow coming this weekend.
I mean, really!! How am I supposed to plan a menu??
When the weather turns cold, I turn automatically to comfort food and there is surely little that is more comforting than a risotto. One recent chilly evening I came home in need of a quick comfort fix and found a bowl of leftover sauteed curly kale in the fridge. Kale is one of winter's joys – a green vegetable amidst all the root vegetables! When people complain that by February they are thoroughly sick of parsnips, carrots and celeriac, I just smile secretly to myself because I know that it's the season for kale. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it is a member of the brassica family (like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage) with very dark green frilly leaves. Its high resistance to frost makes it the perfect vegetable to get your winter greens, and it contains
vitamins A, C and E
a substantial mineral content including manganese, iron, calcium and potassium
phytochemicals such as sulphoraphane (linked to cancer prevention).
Oh yes, and it's delicious too… I had made this eariler in the week, hence the leftover kale. I had never tried kale in a risotto but I figured there wasn't much that could go wrong – and it was the right decision! This risotto strikes the perfect balance between the creamy comfort of rice and the slightly chewy green goodness of the kale. In fact, it's worth making extra kale just to have leftovers so that I can repeat this :)
2 shallots, finely chopped
20g butter, plus 20g cubed for later
2 Tbsp olive oil
300g short-grain risotto rice (I used arborio)
100ml dry white wine
750ml vegetable stock
about a cup of finely chopped sauteed curly kale
100g grated Parmiggiano
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter together with the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the shallots and saute until translucent and soft but do not let them brown [as you see from the photo, I failed to follow my own instructions – aaarrrgh!].
Add the rice and cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly stir so that each grain is well-coated with oil/butter. Add the white wine and keep stirring until the liquid has been absorbed almost completely.
Add the stock (I used Kallo organic) a ladleful at a time (probably about 150-200 ml per ladle). Keep stirring until each ladleful has been completely absorbed, but do not let the rice dry out and stick to the pot. Once each ladleful is absorbed, add the next until the stock has all been added. The rice should be soft but each grain should retain some bite in the centre, perfectly al dente.
Stir in the cooked kale, Parmiggiano and remaining butter in cubes and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve either in wide, shallow bowls as a starter or (as I did) in individual ceramic ramekins as an amuse bouche.
I'm submitting this post as my entry to this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, the event started by my friend Kalyn and now administered by the lovely Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once. This week's edition is kindly hosted by Anna at Anna's Cool Finds. The deadline is Sunday 29 March, so get moving if you want to take part!
And please remember to vote for me in the 2009 SA Blog Awards where I am a finalist in the Best Food and best Overseas Blog categories! If you click on the "vote this blog" logo below you will see that CookSister has been pre-selected for you in these 2 categories. Just scroll to the bottom of the form, enter a valid e-mail address (compulsory) and send your vote! Only one vote is allowed per valid e-mail address, and once you have voted a link will be e-mailed back to your address. You must open the e-mail and click on this link in order to complete your vote, otherwise it will not be counted (see the rules for more info). Voting is open from now until 31 March, with the winners being announced on 3 April at the usual glittering awards ceremony in Cape Town.