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We have been experiencing a true Cape winter – the way they used to make them before global warming and climate change. The cold is bone-aching and the rain folds in in squalls off the Atlantic. In other words weather for soups, casseroles and other comfort food.

On the weekend I made a rich and creamy risotto. Risotto has a reputation for being difficult, but I think it has unfairly attracted that reputation due to the fact that it has to be freshly prepared, resulting in a longer wait time in restaurants. None of my risottos has ever failed (in my opinion anyway). The secret is to add the stock slowly, waiting for each batch to be absorbed. That way, when the rice reaches the correct tenderness, there is not too much liquid left in the pot which would cause it to become too soft.

The reason why risotto needs to be freshly prepared, is that if you get the rice to the correct tenderness, you can be sure that by the time you help yourself to seconds from the pot, it will be a bit too soft, and if there is any left the following day, it will be positively mushy.

I adapted the risotto recipe from one in Hamlyn’s All colour vegetarian cookbook (my rendition is shown below). Even my carnivore pronounced it to be delicious. I had a choice of wine ready, but the whole time I was preparing the food, the following word popped into my head repeatedly: Sémillon. Sémillon. Sémillon. We happened to have some Steenberg Sémillon in the rack, and as the cooking progressed, I became more and more convinced that Steenberg Sémillon it had to be.

It turned out to be a perfect pairing, the full-bodied lushness of the Sémillon beautifully matching the creamy richness of the risotto.

Risotto with spinach, herbs and mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
100g butter
1 large finely chopped onion
250g mushrooms – preferably a mix of exotic mushrooms, but brown mushrooms will do
Cooked and chopped spinach (about 250g when cooked)
500g Arborio rice
About 1.5 litres hot vegetable stock
1 clove garlic crushed
Chopped fresh oregano
75g grated parmesan cheese (pecorino or other hard cheese will do for the sake of economy)
Lemon wedges
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil and half of the butter
Add the onion and cook for a few minutes
Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes
Add the spinach, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, and about 300ml to 500ml of the stock
Stir frequently, and keep adding enough stock to keep the rice quite wet. Continue for about 20 to 25 minutes until the rice is just tender and has absorbed the liquid in the pot. It should be fairly creamy.
Stir in the remaining butter and cheese.
Serve garnished with the lemon wedges and a sprig of oregano.

Open a bottle of Steenberg Sémillon and enjoy the meal.

Tasting notes from the Steenberg website:

“The wine is light gold with green hues in colour, with ripe tropical fruit and limes on the nose. Peach, apricots, lime and a hint of spice on the palate gives adds complexity, ending with a mineral core. Great structure and length with a soft creaminess that lingers, and fresh acidity lends length to the wine.”

Read Jancis Robinsons’ article for an outside perspective on South African Sémillon: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/20070514_4.html

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