I’ve been having a real beetroot craving recently, which I indulged a few Saturdays ago on a morning mooch around Morison’s. I hadn’t really recognised it and was somewhat surprised when I left with some of the cheapest, most vinegary beetroot slices ever to have been created, but I have to admit that they were surprisingly good when devoured with fresh bread and coleslaw. It instantly took me back to a fond memory in which I’m eating a jar of sliced beetroot (it seems this is a guilty pleasure of mine) with hunks of French bread in a sunny Asda car park whilst on a cycling holiday a few years ago. It was as classy as it sounded.
Back in civilisation with a proper kitchen at my disposal, the sliced beetroot didn’t quite cut it and I was still craving that sweet, earthy, vegetable hit so I spent the next week thinking of recipes and flavour combinations, and eventually decided I’d make a risotto.
I’ve been thinking about risotto recently and have realised that it’s a bit of a funny meal. Not funny in a ‘that sounds weird’ sort of way, but funny because everyone knows it’s dead easy to make, doesn’t require any fancy ingredients, and yet we’ve all cracked it out proudly when we’re having people round for dinner, and our guests don’t mind. If you were going to serve stir-fry at a dinner party you’d have to make it really special (or is this just me being a massive food snob?) but risotto gets near universal approval for relatively minimal effort. Risotto has become one of my staple dishes; comfort food which is hard to dislike, versatile, and quick & easy to make. Or so I thought. A quick google of risotto reveals sites claiming that ‘easy risotto recipes aren’t as elusive as you think’, and even the Guardian declares that ‘it is very easy to get very wrong‘. I disagree. Yes there is a bit of stirring involved but this is one of the great joys of cooking; standing over a hob stirring a pan of steaming risotto is a total joy. And I can assure you that this was not hard to make.
I think the flavour combination was inspired by a gravadlax recipe I saw ages ago, and undoubtedly coriander seed would be a nice addition but wasn’t included here. The fantastic vibrant colour, the sweet earthy beetroot, the smooth rich crème fraîche, and fresh dill make for a fantastic pairing. I stole a bit of my housemates feta to crumble on top to add a bit of visual appeal and for a salty hit, but any a soft goats or blue cheese would work brilliantly too. Or a simple dollop of crème fraîche will bring this to life.
Is my penchant for stirring a risotto pan madness? Am I overly snobby about stir-fry? The answer to both is probably yes, but let me know…
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
200g risotto rice (Arborio or Carnaroli)
2 raw beetroots, peeled and grated
Small glass of Vermouth
750ml stock (I used a bit of both vegetable and chicken)
Juice of half a small lemon
Table spoon of Crème fraîche
Fresh dill, chopped
Feta/Goats/Blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
Crème fraîche (optional)
1. Melt the butter in a heavy based pan on a medium heat, and when sizzling, add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until soft.
2. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the butter. After a minute, add the Vermouth and beetroot.
3. Cook for a few minutes until the Vermouth has been absorbed and the mixture looks a little dry. Then start to add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring all the while.
4. Continue to stir until the stock is nearly all absorbed and aim to keep the rice looking sloppy at all times, before repeating the process numerous times.
5. After 20-25 minutes, the rice will be cooked but test it regularly. When it’s cooked to your taste and looks good, turn down the heat.
6. Add the lemon juice and crème fraîche and stir vigorously until well combined and looking smooth. Check the seasoning, and adjust as necessary.
7. Serve immediately, scattering the dill on top and dressing with any cheese/crème fraîche as appropriate.