Yeah, so they might give us a weird form of flu that kills us, they can’t look up and quite a significant percentage of the world’s population won’t touch them for religious reasons, but I happen to think pigs are just great. Mostly because they taste so good I dearly hope that the afterlife comes stocked with a lot of bacon.
In celebration of swine-amazingness, here’s a recipe I’m very, very proud of.
Before we kick off, just a quick word about risotto. Despite its recent rise in popularity as a menu-item in restaurants (I mean seriously – it’s like we only found out about it like…yesterday and now its this new ‘wonder-food’), there’s still a general skepticism about cooking it at home. Mostly I guess because of its perceived “difficulty” to make. Well, stop getting all knotted up – because it’s actually one of the easiest things in the world, it just requires a bit of stirring, that’s all.
Okay, a lot of stirring, but you know…that happens. I usually just make sure I’ve got a very full glass of wine at my elbow and my computer propped up where I can see it (playing an episode of something or other) before I get going, and the whole process doesn’t take long at all.
Another thing, don’t be put off by the fact that for the first 20 minutes or so, your risotto is going to look like a weird gloopy soup with bits in it. It’s meant to. An amazing, almost miraculous thing will happen in the last ten minutes of cooking time, when suddenly the rice softens and swells, the last of your stock boils off and you’re left with the ridiculous deliciousness of your finished risotto.
Okay – enough of that.
1 cup of risotto (Arborio) rice
1 small brown onion
1 clove of garlic
1 small handful of rosa tomatoes
smoked bacon (or good quality streaky bacon)
1 cup of white wine
1 handful of parmesan cheese (finely grated)
about 1 liter of fresh stock (chicken or beef)
1 knob of butter
1 tbsp of olive oil
What to do
Oh, one cup of risotto rice does enough for about 4 people.
So, first things first, soak your dried apricots in some freshly boiled water. You can put them aside, they need about twenty minutes to plump and soften up.
Peel and finely chop the onion and the clove of garlic, slice the rosa tomatoes into halves and chop a large handful of bacon into smallish chunks.
Okay – this is the only bit that’s going to take a bit of judgment on your part: the sweet apricot flavour is what makes this dish, but too much of it and it quickly becomes overbearing. I usually add just less than one part of finely chopped apricots (that’s the key – no big pieces) to two parts bacon to get the right balance. I hope that makes sense. Ultimately the trick is to get a predominant flavour of smoky bacon, just underpinned with the sweet apricot.
In a pan, heat the butter and the olive oil, then add the onions, garlic, tomatoes, bacon and apricots and let them sweat in the heat for about 3 minutes or so. Then add the cup of rice and stir it all up, coating the rice with the juices from everything that’s in the pan. Once it’s all been getting to know each other for about 2 minutes or so. Add the cup of wine and then stir as the alcohol burns off and the rice starts to absorb the liquid.
Then add a ladle of stock, keep stirring until its absorbed, and then add another.
Now it’s just a question of stir, add stock, stir, add stock, stir…drink wine, stir, add stock, watch Gossip Girl, stir.
It should take about 20 minutes to half an hour (depending on the quality of your rice) for it to cook through. But if you’re not sure, just taste some – if its still a bit crunchy – keep going.
And then, just as your last bit of liquid has been nicely absorbed, add a handful of parmesan cheese and some chopped fresh basil, and stir a bit more. I usually don’t bother to put it into a different dish to serve, but just put the pan on the table and let people help themselves, topped with the leftover basil and parmesan.