In a previous winter post, I wrote rhapsodically about the delights of root-to-tip vegetable eating, and gave you a recipe for Compost Pesto, using cauliflower and other brassica greens. I mentioned at the time that I particular like using this pesto in cauliflower risotto. Now, nearly four <eek!> years later, here is that recipe.
This is the sort of dish that Nigel Slater would probably describe as comforting and gentle, and the white on white colouring contributes to that. Sometimes all I want is this calm gentleness – like your favourite jumper in bowl form perhaps! But if you want to make it a little more punchy, then the fried crumbs mixed with garlic, chilli, anchovy, and rosemary will certainly do the job…
I’ve talked about some common concerns with risotto in the recipe for sausage and mushroom risotto, so I won’t rehash here, but just know that it’s pretty hard to muck up. Keep the heat medium, if in doubt add more liquid and butter, and season well, that’s about it 🙂
There are also lots of ways to simplify this or take shortcuts – the pesto is a make ahead component, but you could leave that out if you like, and just mash part of the cauliflower if you prefer; you can use panko breadcrumbs to avoid making fresh crumbs; you can make it without the crumbs – I’d top with some chopped parsley in that case (though I didn’t have any this time); and you can use water and stock powder rather than stock.
Leftovers are wonderful turned into risotto balls or patties (see picture at top) that make a great lunch or snack. Just add an egg and a little more cheese to cold risotto, then mix thoroughly before forming into balls and rolling in breadcrumbs. Flatten in a frying pan and fry until brown each side.
Cauliflower risotto with crispy crumbs
- 1.25L chicken stock or water plus stock powder/cube
- 1 onion
- 1 stick celery
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 400g arborio (or other short grain) rice
- 125ml dry vermouth, sherry or white wine
- 400g cauliflower
- 1/2 batch compost pesto
- 30g butter
- 50g parmesan
- salt and pepper to taste
Crispy crumbs (optional)
- 1-2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- pinch chilli flakes
- 2 anchovies
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan or jug in the microwave until simmering.
Finely chop the onion and celery (you can do this in a food processor if you like). Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the onion and celery for 5 minutes or so until translucent. Add the rice, and fry until the rice is slightly toasted. Increase the heat, add the wine, and stir until absorbed.
Now, the main part of a risotto: add a ladle of the hot stock, stir, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the stock is absorbed, then add another ladle and repeat the process until all the stock is added. I find that you don’t have to stir continuously, but you do have to be nearby and stirring regularly.
While the risotto is simmering, chop the cauliflower into florets, and steam until tender. Turn off the heat and leave while the risotto is cooking. You can cook the cauliflower in the risotto if you prefer, but it’s a bit harder to know when to add it, so I suggest you cook it separately at first so you have a clear idea of your timing.
The aim for risotto is to have a thick but still ‘flowing’ texture. Once the rice grains are cooked (test by tasting), if the risotto is too thick add some extra hot water. You can also add water if you’ve added all the stock and the rice still isn’t cooked.
Turn off the heat, and add the cauliflower, pesto, butter and parmesan and season well with salt and pepper. Stir briefly and leave, covered, for five minutes. Before serving, check the seasoning. I don’t like to season too early as the stock and parmesan add salt. Serve with crispy crumbs and extra parmesan.
Gently heat oil in a medium frying pan, and add finely chopped garlic, chilli flakes, anchovies, and chopped rosemary. Stir over medium low heat until anchovies dissolve and the mixture smells wonderful. Add the breadcrumbs, and stir to coat in the oil, then fry for a few minutes until golden.
Serves 6 with a salad, or 4 plus 2 lunches