Sunday, January 16, 2011

Savoury comfort food from Italy

In the three weeks and a day since Harvey died, I've eaten dinner on my own nine times, mostly in the last two weeks. One night, I took myself over the road to Flavours, the local Indian restaurant. I felt perfectly comfortable eating alone in their upstairs room that catches the late summer sun - and there was enough curry left over to bring home for another night.
         I haven't done much shopping and I've been inclined to eat pasta and rice - I haven't felt like cooking red meat, though I'm happy to eat it when I'm out and someone else cooks it for me. The remains of the Christmas ham have come in handy too.

It was the last of the ham that inspired me to cook myself a lovely risotto, from the Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta section in Claudia Roden's The Food of Italy. Even Harvey, never a great rice lover, enjoyed this one, though I didn't make it often. The first time I must have had some rice which, though it was labelled arborio, took ages to absorb the liquid and put me off trying again. But eventually I did, with different rice, and it worked much better.
           This time, as well as good ham, I had good stock too - I'd made it from a smoked chicken carcase, and put it in the freezer. It's strange cooking with things I made, or even just bought, before Harvey died. Such a sudden line drawn across life.
            Anyway, here's the recipe - I made enough for two servings and froze half, I don't know how successful that will be. But here I've given the original quantities (only with rather more ham and cheese) to feed 4-6 people. It's very comforting food, a bit like a savoury rice pudding.

Antico risotto sabaudo (based on Claudia Roden's recipe, serving 4-6)
50g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
100g cooked ham, diced (I used quite a bit more to finish up the ham, especially as it was for my dinner rather than an entree)
1 large sprig of rosemary
400g Arborio rice
150ml white wine
1.25 litres chicken stock
150g fontina or gruyere cheese, cubed
4-6 tbsps freshly grated parmesan

Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan, add onion and cook gently for 5 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add ham and cook 1 minute, then rosemary and rice, stirring until the rice is transparent. (Mine never seems to go transparent properly but it doesn't matter.)

Add wine, stir and cook until it's absorbed. Add stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until each is absorbed. After about 20 minutes the rice should be creamy but al dente. Stir in fontina or gruyere cheese and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve in warmed pasta plates with parmesan scattered over the top. I had this with a tomato and basil side salad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That does sound comforting, Anne, and the smoked chicken stock would give it a lovely flavour, specially with the ham.
After always having someone else to cook for, cooking just for oneself must be very hard to get used to. But in practical terms, making enough for two and freezing half sounds like a really good idea, and handy for times when you just don't feel like cooking.
Sympathies and best wishes to you as you adjust to life without Harvey.