I’d been planning a broad bean risotto, to be honest, as we’re awash with them at the moment and they’re one of my favourite summer vegetables. Then my eye was caught by a recipe from Anna del Conte which described a risotto of a type I’d never made before, thickened and enriched at the end of cooking not just with parmesan but with egg yolk and cream. The clincher was that the key flavour was lemon. I’m a pushover for anything containing lemons.
Cited as a major influence by Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith, Anna del Conte is often described as the doyenne of Italian cooking, although she’d probably take issue with that as she points out that “Italian” food is actually a collection of regional cooking and each part of Italy has its specialities.
Reading various interviews she’s done over the years, her chief message seems to be one of simplicity and good ingredients. Brits use the wrong pasta, too much garlic and drown the finished dish in sauce, she has said, all crimes I have been guilty of at one time or another.
My very English husband has a horror of what he calls “porridgy” risottos. This, though, is not in the least soupy. It is creamy but delicate and the lemon lifts it way out of the ordinary. And yes, I have bought the book in spite of vows to break my cookbook habit.
It is Italian Kitchen, copyright © Anna del Conte and published by Square Peg. For copyright reasons I’m not allowed to tinker with the words that follow but I would suggest you prep the lemon rind and herbs and the egg, lemon juice and cream mixture shortly before embarking on the risotto as you probably won’t have time to break off to do it when you’re stirring the rice. The pictures, as I’m sure you can tell, are mine.
Any leftovers make excellent arancini.
Risotto with Lemon
1 1/4 litres chicken or vegetable stock
60g unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, very finely chopped
1 celery stick, very finely chopped
300g Italian rice, preferably Arborio
1/2 organic lemon
5 or 6 sage leaves
Small sprig of fresh rosemary leaves
1 egg yolk
4 tbsp parmesan, freshly grated
4 tbsp double cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring the stock to a gentle simmer (keep it simmering all through the cooking of the rice).
Heat half the butter, the oil, shallots and celery in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and sauté until the soffritto – frying mixture – of shallot and celery is softened (about seven minutes). Mix in the rice and continue to sauté, stirring, until the rice is well coated with the fats and is partly translucent.
Pour over about 150 ml of the simmering stock. Stir very thoroughly and cook until the rice has absorbed nearly all of the stock, still stirring.
Add another ladleful of simmering stock and continue in this manner until the rice is ready. You may not need all the stock. Good quality Italian rice for risotto takes 15-20 minutes to cook.
Meanwhile thinly pare the zest from the lemon half and chop it with the herbs. Mix into the rice halfway through the cooking.
Squeeze the half lemon into a small bowl and combine it with the egg yolk, parmesan, cream, a little salt and a very generous grinding of black pepper. Mix well with a fork.
When the rice is al dente, draw the pan off the heat and stir in the egg and cream mixture and the remaining butter. Cover the pan and leave to rest for two minutes or so. Then give the risotto an energetic stir, transfer to a heated dish or bowl and serve at once, with more grated parmesan in a little bowl if you wish.