As a child I did not like rice. This may seem a strange affliction but I blame the dire lack of culinary aptitude that was prevalent in the majority of domestic English kitchens in the seventies and eighties, when I pretended to grow up. If I ate rice as a child it was either boiled white stodge, the gloopy grains clinging to each other for dear life, or else brown and gritty wholefood nonsense. The gastronomic revolution that took Britain in the 90’s was to my mind the most welcome change anyone of my generation is likely to experience.
So to risotto. I grew to enjoy rice as a result of eating in Indian restaurants, but for the introduction to risotto, I have one Angelique Bryce to thank. Angelique made me an asparagus risotto some time ago and taught me just how simple the basis of this dish is. From there on it was plain sailing and I now mix up numerous different styles, introducing signature twists to make each one as delicious as the last. Current favourites are smoked chicken and basil, smoked haddock and flat leaf parsley, seafood medley, three mushroom risotto and finally chorizo and mediterranean vegetable. The secret ingredient with the smoked chicken is that the chicken isn’t smoked at all but the paprika you cook it in most certainly is. With the haddock risotto I find that gently heating whole black peppercorns then adding olive oil and heating further before adding the shallots is a fantastic way to start the dish. The haddock risotto seems to be the one that gets most accolades so here it is just for you, dear reader.
You will need arborio rice, smoked haddock fillets, dry white wine, fish stock (cubes will suffice if you can’t get it fresh) olive oil, shallots, garlic, peppercorns, lemon juice and flat leaf parsley.
Take a heavy bottom pan and gently heat the dry peppercorns until you can smell them but before they pop. Add a good glug of oil and heat further, before adding finely sliced shallots and garlic and continuing the gentle heat. Throw in a couple of generous handfuls of Arborio and stir well to coat the grains before ceremoniously sloshing a small glass of the vino in to the mix. You can raise the heat a little here and most importantly stir for all you’re worth. If you’re not worth much, stir harder and increase your nett value. As the grains absorb the liquid and by the grace of God the flavour too, start to ladle in your stock, one at a time. Each time, let it simmer, keep it stirring and let it begin to dry before going at it again and again. It is a hypnotic process and the smells alone are therapeutic enough, but I find the stirring action sends me in to a mute rapture. That and the Floyd style action of quaffing as you cook. Now if you’re not too inebriated here is the trickier part. In a non stick frying pan heat a little more oil and lay the fillet skin side down so it sizzles and pops. Pour say half a glass of wine on the top and spoon the liquor it creates over the fish as it cooks from the underside, meanwhile intermittently stirring the gently bubbling grains and ensuring it doesn’t go dry. Can you manage this? Let’s see how much you’re really worth. Flip the fillet over and give it 1 min on the flesh side then de-bone and flake it up with a small squeeze of lemon juice. As you get to the final ten to twelve minutes of stirring the rice mix, tip the flaked fish in and not forgetting the final addition of a generous roughly chopped bunch of flat leaf parsley. Give it all one last stir to ensure all ingredients are singing the same harmonious tune and serve. For those of you who are die hard carnivores, you can also add cubed chorizo at the shallot and garlic stage if you wish.
If you have cooked this recipe please do give feedback.