Saturday 7 January 2012

A Delicious Tomato Risotto

In my teens I became hooked on cheese toasties. For months I'd eat nothing else. Then one night, without warning, the rush was gone, vanished without trace. I wouldn't give up without a fight though and started experimenting with the addition of 'exotics'.
Sometimes it worked... black pepper, sometimes it really didn't... cloves. One night, from the back of my parents spice cupboard, where every spice is still out of date, I pulled a jar of dried basil. Wow, what a revelation.
This combination so impressed my juvenile palette, I risked introducing it to my first proper-ish girlfriend. She was smitten. Not on me though. Months later I found myself opposite her new boyfriend in a bar, above the general hullabaloo all I could hear was, "Cheese toasties... bla bla...basil... bla bla... amazing". A silent rage began to swell, luckily I was just sober enough to hold back shouting across, "That's my recipe you bastard!".

Nowadays I know it's not really a surprise these ingredients mix so well. Pesto after all is mostly cheese and basil. Of course what basil's really famous for going with is tomato, so here's a dish other than pizza that sees them work so well together.

Tomato Risotto

Aside from butter, olive oil and hot stock, this is all you'll need.

The two cheeses are Parmesan and Tomme de Savoie. The tomato sauce is made by liquidising a tin of tomatoes then pushing them through a sieve with the back of a spoon. It's an adaptation of a recipe from the book 'Dear Franscesca' by Mary Contini. Follow the usual risotto recipe: like this one here , but omit the pancetta: and add the tomato sauce just after the white wine but before you start adding the hot stock. I used a low salt vegetable stock cube and it worked a treat.

Both cheeses go in at the end, let them melt then pop in the shredded basil. The original recipe used Fontina cheese but when I asked for some in Mellis's great cheese shop they told me they hadn't stocked it since 2000 !! The guy behind the counter explained it was because while it tastes great eaten in situ in the Valle d'Aosta they hadn't found one that travelled well. Strewth, a cheese that makes you come to it. How demanding. Instead he recommended Tomme de Savoie which worked perfectly, lots of melted, stringy cheesy goodness.

Tomatoes are a notoriously difficult wine match. But in this dish the tomato flavour is tempered by the cheese and basil and this wine worked well. It's on offer just now and an absolute steal for the rather odd price of £5.24. Full of delicious pink grapefruit flavours.

Forte Alto Pinot Grigio, Dolomiti, 2010. Down from £7.99 to £5.24 in Waitrose. What a bargain.

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