The story of a magnificent red-pepper and haddock risotto.
Dear reader, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh now married 72 years, had their wedding anniversary last week. My wife and I share the same day, but given the constraints of Covid-19 we made the decision that we would not celebrate this time. However, we were collecting some ingredients from a supplier and on the way back to Ayrshire, we decided to pop into the lovely Waitrose store on the south side of the city of Glasgow for a bit of a treat. There isn’t a Waitrose store in the county in which we live and work, so it’s refreshing to visit somewhere that sells things that are ‘different’. It’s a terrific shop. The vegetable selection is unalike anything from other run-of-the-mill supermarkets and the quality is awesome, as indeed it is for everything to be found on the shelves. https://www.waitrose.com
Approaching the fish counter that has all sort of delicacies, even fresh oysters; we were asked by the lovely man serving us if there was anything in particular that he could help with. There was such a choice that it took a while for us to make up our mind about what would be best for supper. While he considered, that man asked if we liked risotto and indeed if we did, did we know how to cook it? We said that we did and so he went on to explain about a favourite of his own, a red-pepper and haddock risotto. We were intrigued and even more delighted when the man went on, in simple terms to explain the recipe. More important to us was the fact that the fish on offer came from Grimsby, a once mighty fishing port. It was caught in the well-managed and totally sustainable waters around Iceland and it had been smoked completely naturally, rather than the horrible ‘yellow war-paint’ that we find on some fish in supermarkets these days.
Later that day we set about cooking the risotto for or family. It was terrific and earned the comment that it would have made Nigella jealous. We should point out that we learned all that he needed to know about cooking risotto one evening at a tiny little restaurant we were fortunate to visit some years ago. Near to Lago (lake) Orta in the north Italian lakes, the lady owners grasp of English and ours of the Italian language was limited, but sufficient for us to understand that the active ingredient in the risotto on the menu, was according to the lovely old lady, ‘just good stock’. The risotto eaten that night was magnificent. Apart for the stock that had been cooked and reduced for many hours to concentrate its flavour, it was topped with some of the finest parmesan cheese we had ever tasted. Risotto became a family favourite, and we have over the years, tried all sorts of ingredients to add to it, but the basic recipe has remained as taught to us. It takes hours and hours to make proper stock like Lago Orta, so we use a good quality chicken stock cube that combined with flavour from the sherry makes it pretty tasty.
And so, without further ado, we would like to share with you our interpretation of a combination of a Lago Orta and Sainsbury (Glasgow) Red Pepper and Haddock Risotto.
Recipe to serve 3 people (adjust per your needs)
1 onion (or three long shallots), finely chopped.
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped.
1 medium red pepper cut into small dice.
6 brown mushrooms cut into small dice.
1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 500ml of hot water – slowly simmering until used.
One handful of Arborio rice (that you can hold in a cupped hand) per person.
And one more handful of rice – ‘for the pot’.
(That’s four handfuls to feed three people.)
Good quality olive oil.
Good quality Sherry. We use medium dry Solero.
300g of Grimsby or Peterhead (when in season), traditionally-smoked haddock from Waitrose or other good supermarket or independent fish shop selling responsibly-sourced fish – rinsed in cold water. Check with the fingers to ensure that any tiny bones left over from filleting have been removed.
Freshly grated parmesan cheese.
We use a ceramic skillet(https://www.towerhousewares.co.uk/chameleon-32cm-forged-non-stick-frying-pan.html) It has a ceramic coating that with care when cleaning should provide many years of good service.
Add half a tablespoon of the oil to the pan and heat to medium.
As it heats, add the garlic and the onion (or shallots we prefer) and the prepared pepper and the mushrooms.
Allow to soften for a few minutes.
Add the rice and stir to coat it with all of the flavours from the oil, garlic, onion and pepper.
Add a good splash of sherry to the pan, raise the heat to full and stir until the alcohol has evaporated (takes a minute or two).
While all of this is happening, have another pan with the water and stock cube simmering slowly.
Add enough water and stock to cover the rice, stir and keep the heat on high.
Continue cooking and add more stock as the rice continues to absorb it.
Pick a grain of rice from the pan now and again and test it between the teeth to see if it is ready, still hard or whatever.
While the rice and other vegetables cook, take another smaller (Tower) frying pan and add a little olive oil. Raise the heat to half and add the fish skin down. Allow to cook through. You will see it change colour slightly as it does – that only takes a few minutes.
When the rice is ready, switch off the heat. Lift the fish from the pan and allow the cooked flesh to literally fall from the skin onto the cooked rice. Gently stir the dish to disperse the fish into the risotto and leave it alone for a few minutes as it all comes together.
Share the mixture out into three plates and apply a good grating of parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
This risotto is magnificent. It’s flavoursome and very healthy – and it’s all thanks to the lovely man serving at the fish counter at Waitrose. It is certainly a dish that will find a place in our kitchen for many, many years and we hope that you will enjoy it as much as we did.
You can find out all about us and read other helpful articles at https://www.skinlikes.co.uk. Our newsletter this week, is written by Jim, but best wishes from all of the team at SkinLikes.