The first cookery blog I started reading regularly was the Single Gourmet and Traveller, having met its author at a party given by a mutual friend. I quickly became hooked on her regular posts, which often provide inspiration for solo dinners, as well as feeding my love of Venice and Amsterdam, cities she often visits and writes about.
While I have since signed up for other food blogs, like Deb Perelman’s ebullient Smitten Kitchen and the healthy and beautifully photographed recipes on Green Kitchen Stories, it is Single Gourmet and Traveller I come back to most often. I, too, am often cooking for myself, and want recipes that can be prepared without too much fuss.
All of which is by way of preamble to this recipe for risotto for one which I made for lunch today. A bright morning had turned wet and stormy, so I no longer fancied Nigella’s Pea, Mint and Avocado Salad that I had vaguely planned. Something more comforting was called for. A survey of the fridge produced a leek that definitely needed eating, half a carton of chicken stock, a small piece of hand-carved ham and some peas and beans left over from lunch yesterday, so I thought I would try to transform them into a risotto.
1 leek, trimmed and sliced
a good knob of butter and a little oil
60g risotto rice (or up to 75g if you’re hungry)
a splash of vermouth (1 tbsp approx; optional)
200ml chicken (or vegetable) stock
60g peas and/or green beans
15g parmesan, finely grated
6 basil leaves
The quantities above should be regarded as approximate – as I have already confessed, this risotto was designed to use up leftovers, and you could easily substitute onion or shallot for the leek, make it with frozen peas, or use whatever type of ham you have (see below if you have prosciutto to hand). If you don’t have any stock, and you have time, you could make this Vegetable stock, from Single Gourmet and Traveller, which sounds delicious and quite easy to make.
I warmed a good knob of butter and a little olive oil in a saucepan and cooked the sliced leek until it was beginning to soften. Meanwhile, I put the chicken stock to heat in a separate pan. Then I tipped the rice in with the leeks and stirred to coat the grains with butter before adding a good splash of vermouth (I like Noilly Prat), which I think gives the risotto a lovely herby flavour. You could use some dry white wine or just leave it out. I let that bubble up for a minute or two, stirring well, and then began to add the hot stock a ladleful at the time, stirring all the time.
My peas and beans were already cooked, but if you’re using fresh ones, chop the beans into 2 cm pieces, and cook both veg in boiling water until they are nearly done, putting the beans in first for 2 minutes and then adding the frozen peas and cooking for another 2 minutes. It would be just as nice using only peas if that’s what you’ve got. They will finish cooking in the risotto. Drain in a colander and refresh briefly under cold water.
When the rice was starting to soften I added the peas and beans to the pan, before adding the last of the stock and stirring to amalgamate it all. Finally, when the rice was almost ready, I added the ham and some torn leaves of basil, letting it cook for just a few minutes more until the rice was al dente and the ham warmed through. I mixed in half the grated parmesan and another nut of butter to stop it cooking, checked the seasoning and served with the rest of the parmesan sprinkled over.
A really satisfying and tasty lunch from a slightly random selection of ingredients – and nice enough for me to make again from scratch. Having gone back to Single Gourmet and Traveller, I realise that this recipe is not far away from her Leek Risotto with Crispy Prosciutto, posted on the blog last November and probably lurking in the back of my mind, which was probably why a risotto suggested itself when I found leeks, stock and ham in the fridge!