When I first started learning how to cook one of the dishes I'd frequently revisit (and exhaust) was the classic Milanese dish of risotto. It soon became my calling card; I knew how to cook a decent risotto. But by the twentieth time of cooking a risotto I suddenly had an epiphany...I'd become a one-dish wonder. That realisation forced me to change tact and to save the risotto for special occasions. I had to learn how to cook something else. Over the years I revisited the risotto several times but the more I cooked it more adventurous I became.
This specific recipe isn't the most adventurous of my attempts but it has an immediate visual impact and a wonderful sweet, earthy taste from the beetroot. The fresh goats' cheese turns this from a good risotto into a very good one (if I say so myself). When I brought this out for my Mum to try she was taken aback by the colour but she had something on her mind. She first stared at the risotto and then inspected the dish before exclaiming that there was something quite devilish about the colour and to a superstitious woman like her it was quite alarming. She did try it and I'm glad to say she loved it (and there were no ill effects nor any sign of an antichrist).
1 cup Egyptian short grain rice (or Carnaroli)
2-2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 stalk celery
1 large onion
2 small cloves of garlic
1 dessert spoon olive oil
a splash of a dry white wine (optional)
3 medium sized beetroots - grated
2 tablespoons of parmesan
1 tablespoon of good quality butter
1 block fresh soft goats cheese (I used a variety from the Poitou-Charentes region)
salt and pepper (careful on the salt, there's stock and parmesan in this)
Sweat the diced onion and celery in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the garlic for no longer than half a minute. Add the rice and make sure that every grain is coated in oil and fry for a minute. Add the wine if you're using it or proceed ahead if you're not. Add the beetroot and stir in and then ladle on the first spoonful of stock. Try to stir this as few times as possible. You only want to stir to stop it from sticking. Add a ladleful of stock at a time until the rice has increased in size and is tender to the bite. You want to make sure not to dry out the rice too much so it's best to add a little more stock after your rice is cooked to your liking. Add the grated parmesan and butter and stir. Cover and leave to rest for one minute. Cut the goats' cheese into chunks whilst you wait. Spoon on the risotto and layer with some goats cheese and a splash of olive oil. Then it's time to eat!