Memories, in a pot.

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Everyone has that dish, that thing that someone used to make for them – whether it was mom or granny or whoever. And however good it actually was, there’s always a fair amount of rhapsodizing that goes on about how no-one’s ever going to make it the same, and it just brings back the memories of whatever-the-fuck.

The funny thing is that I’ve recently started finding out that it’s not only the eaters whose memories get tickled by specific bits of cooking. It’s the cookers as well.

It would be impossible for me to not think of the circumstances around which I first made a specific thing and for the memories of those circumstances to be brought up the next time I make it. It happens with everything; songs, smells, sounds, pictures, tv shows we remember, movies, books – whatever. And for me I’m quickly beginning to realize that cooking is perhaps one of the most powerful of them all.

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I had a couple of people around for Sunday lunch recently, and the things I chose to make were all to remind me of something specific, things I wanted to remember, and cooked to do so.

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Those memories are just for me, but if I’ve got a unusually stupid look on my face (more than normal I mean) when you’re eating something I’ve made, then maybe just don’t make any loud noises around me for a little bit. And if I’m trying something new, then best you pull out all the stops, because a new memory is busy being made.

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Champagne Risotto (for 4 as a main meal, 6 as a light starter)

This is dead easy, and the simplicity of the flavors makes it a wonderfully clean autumn dish. I love how risotto doesn’t actually need a lot done to it to be an excellent and satisfying experience.

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1 cup of arborio rice
2 cups of champagne/method cap classic/sparkling wine (semi-sweet)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 handful grated Parmesan
1 handful gated mozzarella
1 generous handful of asparagus tips
About a liter of water, on standby
Juice of half a lemon
Salt
Pepper
a splash of olive oil

What to do

In a large pan, heat the olive oil, then add the chopped onion and garlic. Stir over the heat until softened and fragrant, then add the rice to the pan. Carry on stirring so that the rice is coated in the juices of the onion and olive oil, then add a cup of the champagne. Riding the heat, stir the rice until the champagne has been absorbed.

Now the trick is to just add water, one cup at a time – stirring all the while – so that whenever the rice looks like its getting dry it gets more water to absorb.

After about twenty minutes of stirring and adding water, you should have a pan of plump, juicy rice with a thickish sauce. At this point, give it a taste, and add salt and pepper accordingly. I like using slightly sweeter champagne for this recipe, which means having to season quite generously to balance it out, so just make sure you taste it and work accordingly.

In a separate pan, heat another splash of olive oil, add the asparagus tips, season them salt and pepper and squeeze over the lemon juice. Let them roll around in the heat for about five minutes.

As a final step for the risotto, add the second cup of champagne, the cheese and stir until all absorbed until nice and cheesy and thick but not pasty. Check the seasoning again, and adjust if necessary. Top it with the asparagus, and serve straight from the pan.

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thanks to the always Instagram-ready Candice-Reney for these

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my cat is not mad, I promise

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6 thoughts on “Memories, in a pot.

  1. mmm mmm mm!
    You know me…anything with champagne in the title – and I’m drawn in like a moth to the flame. And when you pair it with asparagus tips – I’m practically in vegetarian culinary ecstasy!

    p.s Any chance you’d be willing to share that scrummy Risotto recipe with the lovers of the Naked Life?
    (Site just launched – recipe section needs some jazzing up. And quite frankly, I just don’t know anyone who knows jazz better than you.)

    p.p.s. The mental health of your cat is not what we’re concerned about 😉

  2. Haha – Helen, only you would come out and just straight-up say, “I think you’re funny in the head.”

    Sure thing, use the recipe with pleasure, and if you want to link back this site, then that’s cool too.

  3. Good risotto is my poster child for comfort food. The combination of cheese, starch and winey-ness always makes me happy. Loving the idea of bubbly instead of dry white. In my head it’s less sharp. You’re so clever.

    1. No I’m totally not – actually the very first time I saw champagne being used in a risotto was my lovely friend Karen who is a peerless expert on all things wine-y. She did it one evening and I was fascinated. The idea lodged in my brain and then it only took me, like… 6 years to do anything about it.

      So, go me…

      I’m with you on the comfort factor. We’re probably heading into the same sort of weather at the moment, you and us – just heading in different directions. And I must admit, I get excited about winter food.

  4. Wow. thats great i was looking for a champaigne recipe. to add some zing into the chicken. and found your article. its just great. i doubted this will be a flop to try but after makin it it was just awsome. great. thanks for sharing

    1. I’m so sorry I took so long to reply to this comment – because it really was a pleasure to come across and made me happy to read. Thanks for trying out the recipe and letting me know how it worked out. I promise not to be such a lazy bugger next time you decide to post 🙂

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