Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lifting The Fog

Chorizo and Pea Risotto

Happy New Year!

Where did all the time go? Months spent outside the blogosphere must equate to years. While others have kept up their posting at such a prodigious rate, I on the other hand feel like I need to reacquaint myself with the blog.

It seems that the London fog had clouded my head and sucked out every will to write, albeit, none of my will to eat. I had no intention of going on hiatus, as such, which must be the blogger’s equivalent to the celebrity stint in rehab. I in fact, had every intention of keeping up the posts at the same rate, if not even greater than in Sydney– but it just didn’t pan out that way. The excitement and responsibilities of moving to a new city, the anticipation of travel and my lack of kitchen paraphernalia all contributed to the derelict state of the blog. But it’s time I dust the cobwebs off and start the old girl back up again.

Chorizo and Pea Risotto

Now here’s something from the vault that has yet to see the light of day– a Chorizo and Pea risotto that I made back in August last year, not long before I left for London. Perhaps it’s not the most obvious choice for a comeback, it’s rustic and almost too quotidian– and especially if you are reading this in the heart of the Australian summer, it’s not exactly the sort of summer fare that relieves you from the blistering heat. But in the dead of one of Britain’s coldest winters in decades, this is sort of thing that really warms your cockles and staves off those sudden chills.

During these winter months, sometimes there’s nothing better than a meal devoid of any pomp and pretension and just serves you up want you want. Comfort. It seems also most hackneyed, but the idea of comfort food will never be out of place. Aside from nourishment, we all know the sensual and consoling nature of food. Just watch Ratatouille and let Remy show you the power food has over one’s sensibilities and lift us out of our momentary fog.

So to lift this seemingly pedestrian risotto out of banality, I decided to use Testun di Pecora Con Foglie di Castagne. The testun, I picked up at the Pyrmont Grower’s Market last year from Formaggi Ocello. It’s a bit of a mouthful to say, but the testun is simply a sheep's milk cheese covered in chestnut leaves. It’s aged for no less than 28 months, and at $120/kilo, it’s earned its worth in flavour.


The cheese has a subtle nutty taste, salty, with hints of sharpness and a nice sweet finish that is characteristic of many sheep’s milk cheese. I’m not sure exactly if the chestnut leaves are responsible for adding that nutty flavour to it but I imagine the wrapping serves a great purpose in imparting flavour.

The addition of the testun di pecora does lift this risotto out of the familiar and gives it that little oomph that perhaps something like the addition of truffles in pasta would do. Ok, perhaps that is a stretch, as truffles are in a league of their own, but the cheese does infuse a nuance of flavour that sets it beyond the norm.

I should add that the chorizo I used was a picante that I also procured from the markets at the Eumundi Smokehouse stall. How I miss their preservative-free gourmet sausages- this seems to be quite lacking here in England. Their love of pork becomes blaringly obvious when at the grocery store or the markets you will see shelves stocked to the brim with all manner of pork sausages, but when all you are wanting are some lamb merguez, or even just beef and Guinness, you leave feeling a little bit empty-handed. And I’m not particulary one for supermarket-brand sausages, filled with all sorts of preservatives and numbers and letters I cannot pronounce. Usually I stay away from anything with too many numbers in its ingredients list.

However, I have found a stall at the Greenwich Markets that sells lamb merguez, but when I came back to get some they had sold out. I was only gone for an hour! Which makes me suspect this could be the only place in London selling lamb merguez.

So there you have it, my first post of the year. I’ll try to be a little more proactive with the blogging, but thank you for your emails of concern when I dropped off the radar.

Chorizo and Pea Risotto
Serves 4

Chorizo and Pea Risotto

1.1 litres chicken stock
1 tbs olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 chorizo picante, diced
400g arborio rice
dry white wine
1 cup freshly shelled green peas (frozen is also fine to use)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
50g butter
125g freshly grated testun di pecora (or any other hard sheep’s milk cheese)

Heat the stock to a gentle simmer in a medium pot.
Meanwhile in a wide saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat and fry onions until soft, 3-5 minutes.
Then add the garlic and chorizo and fry until chorizo is crispy.
Add the rice and stir until the rice becomes slightly translucent.
Add a splash of white wine and stir.
Begin to add a ladle of hot stock and continue to stir rice.
Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring until each batch of stock is absorbed. The rice should be soft, although not gluggy; there should be a little bit of a bite to it. Use more or less stock depending on the softness of the rice.
When the rice is just about cooked add the peas and cook for another 2-3 minutes, season with sea salt and pepper.
Remove pan from heat and stir through the butter and testun di pecora.
Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes before serving.


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

WELCOME BACK!!! I've missed your posts!!! :-D

Anonymous said...

This looks devine!! I just might have to tempt this. Yum!

Anonymous said...

So lovely to have you back. I know we have just had the coldest start to winter I have known in over 10 years of living in London, so I can understand why the break.

ilingc said...

i hear ye!

i had the same idea before i left and rushed abouts making all these recipes i wanted to try before i left. i probably made about a dozen things before i left with the intention of blogging it but in reality only a handful of them made it on to the blog. the rest are still sitting in draft land.. hehe

the lack of favourite kitchen utensils definitely hinders the motivation to whip up something..!

Bria said...

I make a pea and chorizo risotto quite often, but it's hard to find good chorizo around here. Yours looks amazing!

Anonymous said...

Missed your posts. Great to see you here again. Lovely pics and delicious looking food!

Renee said...

so good to see you back! I love your blog and look forward to reading about your culinary adventures in London :)

Y said...

Welcome back. You have been sorely missed :)

BlondeJustice said...

YAY!!!! You're back! What a lovely post.... so... :D

Cherie said...

Welcome back! Hope to "see" you more often from now on. How are you enjoying London? And more importantly have you had high tea yet?

Mari said...

Nice to have you back, looking forward to more of your London inspired posts!

Eileen said...

I'll be making this risotto this weekend!

Anonymous said...

Looks healthy and delicious!

Katie said...

I wish I had a bowl of this right now! It looks fantastic.

Jen said...

Veggie Girl- Thanks, it's nice to be back in the blogosphere again!

Beautifuliving- Thank you. It's incredibly good especially when you have the cheese I used, but I'm sure good old parmigiano reggiano will be just as tasty.

Maraka- I know what you mean, I can't believe I've survived one of the coldest winters on record. I think I've just been eating my way through winter, to get through it.

ilingc- Yeah, all these intentions kind of get waylaid once you get here. I do miss my kitchen stuff in Sydney. It's hard when you have to start your collection back up again.

Bria- I have to admit, when it comes to classic treats like risotto its all about the quality of your ingredients, you might be able to substitute with some other cured sausage meat.

Gretchen Noelle- Thanks, it's definitely nice to be back.

Renee- I think once the weather starts to warm up I will venture out some more and get stuck into the food here. As for now, it's all about saving money by cooking at home!

Y- Thanks, that's nice to know.

Olivia- Thanks, yeah I had to come back with a punch!

Cherie- Yes I'm definitely enjoying London, you can never be bored in this city and if you do ever get bored then there is something very wrong with you. No I haven't done high tea yet, but the one at Fortnum and Mason looks very enticing.

Mevrouw Cupcake- Thank you, will be on the hunt for foodie delights in London just for you!

Eileen- that's a great plan. Bon Appetite!

Lisa (dandy sugar)- It's probably not the healthiest meal but it's no way as bad as, say, a cupcake. So you can indulge a little more.

Katie- Thank you, the great thing is that it can be whipped up in no time. 30 minutes and you're there.

Anonymous said...

i adore your blog - the photography, the writing, the recipes... a never-miss. i aspire for my newly-launched food blog to be just as brilliant. would love for you to pop over some time!