Day 3 – Beetroot Risotto
Within a week of getting to Melbourne I was lunching at a restaurant that prides itself on a $10 lunch. A $10 lunch can often be a mixed blessing – in this case, it provided unexpected joy. A fabulously over-the-top waiter, great company and conversation and this, a sensational beetroot risotto.
Regular readers will know just how much I adore the flavour of well-roasted beetroot. It proves once again, even in the depths of winter, that there’s no excuse for not making the very most of seasonally available ingredients. I didn’t add parmesan, but instead topped off the rice with some fetta cheese, a great addition.
1 bunch beetroot; 3 tbsp olive oil; 2 sprigs thyme; 2 cloves garlic; 2 tbsp butter; 1 medium-sized brown onion, finely diced; 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar; 2 cups arborio rice; 1 cup (250ml) chicken stock, heated up to boiling point; 3 cups (750ml) boiling water; 1 bunch english spinach leaves, well washed and dried; 50g walnuts, chopped; 50g fetta, diced into 1cm cubes
Pre-heat oven to 190°C.
Line a small baking tray with foil. Trim the beetroot of leaves, stalks and the thin ends, then place on the tray. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and one crushed garlic clove, then drizzle with oil. Roast for 50 minutes, turning occasionally, until the beetroot is soft in the centre when you prick it with a sharp knife. Remove from oven and, using rubber gloves, peel away the beetroot skins. Set aside.
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter and add the remaining thinly sliced garlic clove and onion. Saute for 4-5 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent, then add the vinegar. It will sizzle and bubble – continue stirring until the vinegar has evaporated, leaving the onion a dark brown.
Add the rice and stir until the rice starts to ‘pop’. Add the chicken stock and stir to incorporate. Reduce heat to low and simmer constantly , stirring from time to time until the stock has been completely absorbed into the rice.
Add the boiling water, about half a cup at a time, continuing to stir well between each addition. Do not add any more water until the last lot is absorbed – you may not need to add all of it.
Continue stirring and adding the water until the rice is al dente. Finely chop the beetroot into small dice and cut the spinach leaves into 1cm shreds and add to the rice. It will turn the rice a rich claret pink. Continue stirring for a minute until the spinach wilts. Add the walnuts, then add some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Serve with cubes of fetta cheese – and some more nuts if you prefer – scattered over the top.
$12.90 for four generous serves.