Friday, 15 August 2014

Fennel, Courgette & Chilli Risotto

As it was my birthday on Monday I had a long weekend of celebrations. It was an excellent time with excellent friends. I ate terribly, drunk wayyy too much and felt pretty shoddy by the end... but that's what birthdays are for, right??? This week I have needed good old comfort food to get me back on top. Lots of fruit, veggies and plenty of hydration. The temperature has also dropped which has meant a good chance to indulge in cold-weather favourites including soups, broths and risottos. Happy days!

This Fennel, Courgette & Chilli Risotto was thrown together with random bits left in the fridge and is just so satisfying. Also, I managed to keep my inner chilli fiend locked up and so it's warmth is manageable for most. Well done me. 

I adore Risotto and the key is to keep it moist and keep everything moving. Don't rush the process, just take it easy. I also really love al dente rice, so it is 'just' cooked and therefore not at all stodgy, but you can cook it whichever way you like it!

To serve 2, you will need:

1 tbsp Dairy Free Spread (feel free to use Butter if you are not dairy-free)
1 large Fennel bulb, finely sliced (reserve Fennel tops for decoration)
1 medium Courgette, roughly diced
1 large Red Chilli (medium heat), finely chopped
180g Arborio Risotto Rice
Juice of 1 Lemon
500ml Organic Vegetable Stock
1 tsp Fennel Seeds
½ tsp Black Peppercorns
Salt flakes
Small handful of Parsley

In a heavy-based deep-sided frying pan, heat the Dairy Free Spread until melted then add the sliced fennel. Cook at a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring throughout, to soften. Turn the heat up to full for 2 minutes following this to get a little browning on the fennel.

Turn the hob back down to medium heat then add the diced Courgette. Cook for 5 minutes then add the chilli. Mix together well then cook for a further 5 minutes. In the meantime crush the fennel seeds with the black peppercorns and add to the pan, then make up 500ml vegetable stock in a jug.

Add the rice to the pan and coat fully by mixing well, then squeeze over the lemon juice. Let this sizzle away for a minute or two, keeping everything moving, then add the first 100ml of your stock. The aim is to let each bit of liquid get absorbed fully before pouring in the next. So gradually add the stock bit by bit over the course of 20-30 minutes until the rice is cooked to your liking. If you need more liquid add more stock or even water straight from the kettle.

Once the risotto rice is cooked to your liking remove from the heat. Taste and then season with salt accordingly. Finely chop a small handful of Parsley leaves and mix through. Then serve ripping up the Fennel tops to use as a garnish for the top. 

The great thing about the use of courgette in this recipe is that some pieces stay whole and even relatively firm. Whilst other pieces soften and get mixed through to create an almost creaminess. Overall the Risotto is really fresh-tasting, with a lovely aniseed warmth from the fennel and a definite zing from the lemon and chilli. I hope you enjoy!

Watch this space for my next blog post for Suma Wholefoods coming soon! It's a fruity delight!

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