When you are an ad hoc cook, you tend to pull together ingredients you have to hand – “in the moment” – to create dishes, by definition unique. Results range from good, bad and sometimes the downright ugly. If they are good, they need to submit to my kitchen rule: recipes not directly from cookbooks, other written sources or the internet are subject to repeated testing. Make once, make again (this time measuring) and then again following the old adage that third time is lucky. If the results of the experiments are uniformly good across all three tests, then my recipe gets written down and kept. You might have noticed that this writing down procedure is actually a paradox. I won’t go into the subject here, but you might like to see the note below for a short elaboration on this theme.
I make many risottos, particularly in the winter months, usually throwing things together in that ad hoc manner I mentioned above. Sometimes you hit on one that is special, one that passes the triple trial test. This root risotto is one.
Carrot and Beet Green Risotto
A good, hearty winter risotto. Techically, it only uses one actual root, but it does include the leafy parts of another root vegetable. Both provide that earthy flavour associated with these underground tubers.
- 250g fresh beetroot greens and stalks
- 1 large Carrot
- 1 onion
- 700ml Beef stock, preferably homemade
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 250g Risotto rice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 15g Butter
- 40g Parmesan cheese
Clean and coarsely chop the beat greens and stalks. Boil them in lightly salted water for about 5-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Peel and grate the carrot – set aside. Finely chop the onion. Heat the beef stock in a sauce pan and keep it at a simmer.
In a large pan, heat the olive oil on medium-low heat and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the rice. Stir so that the rice is coated in oil, then add 2 ladles of hot stock. Stir in the mustard. When the liquid has almost absorbed, add another ladle of stock along with the beet greens and the grated carrot. Stir and continue adding ladles of stock until it is used up and the rice us cooked – about 30 minutes. Test for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Add the butter, stir until it melts. This will give a sheen to the risitto. Add the cheese; stir to incorporate. Serve immediately.
Gratuitous photos of beetroot and their lovely greens in the laiki.
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Note: Writing an ad hoc recipe down is, of course, paradoxical. Richard Olney eloquently discusses this anomaly in the preface of his book, Simple French Food in “A Note on Improvisation”.
…a recipe once set down…no longer belongs to the realm of improvisation. The act of recording it robs it of the license responsible for its creation.
Still, I have found that even if a recipe is set down (handwritten, typed, printed or in digital format in text, video or audio), the cook always finds ways of improvising.
To be honest, even though I’ve recorded this recipe for my Root Risotto, I will no doubt improvise when it is made again: add more or less beetroot greens/grated carrots or a tad bit more mustard, test out that splash of white or red wine before the stock is added, add a small amount of leftover cooked beef, create a bit of heat with a dried crushed pepperoncino, substitute Pecorino for Parmesan or use a hearty mushroom stock as a vegetarian version…. It is impossible to change the habits of a lifetime ad hoc cook. Please feel free to do some improvising of your own.