Even if you consider yourself to be in the beetroot-hating camp, I would urge you to try this vivid bowlful – ruby red splashed with white and green. It could change your mind. The flavour is gentle and earthily comforting, the sweet beetroot underpinned by a rich, savoury creaminess. It seems an appropriate thing to be eating in what has turned out to be an unprepossessingly wet and storm-torn British autumn. Stay in, rug up, eat risotto.
Serves 4 generously
1.2 litre vegetable stock
500g raw red beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated
3 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Leaves from 3 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
350g arborio or carnaroli risotto rice
150ml dry red wine
2 tsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp mascarpone, plus extra to serve
100g pecorino, finely grated, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp chopped chives
Put the stock in a saucepan and add the grated beetroot. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a heavy wide saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, garlic, thyme and a pinch of salt, and sweat gently for at least 5 minutes, stirring often, until soft, but not brown. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes until well coated in the oil.
Turn up the heat a little and pour in the wine. Stir until the liquid has been absorbed. Now add two ladles of the hot beetroot stock, scooping up some of the red shreds at the same time, and continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add another two ladles of stock and beetroot, again stirring until absorbed. Season well, then add a third quantity of stock and stir in.
Keep adding stock and stirring in this way until the rice grains are just al dente. Use a splash of boiling water if the stock runs out. You don’t want the rice to turn into pudding. The grains should be soft, but with a touch of firmness – though not chalkiness – in the centre. The whole thing should have a slow fluidity. This should take 16-20 minutes from the moment you add the first lot of stock.
Once the rice is cooked, add the mascarpone, pecorino, red wine vinegar, plus a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir together vigorously, then taste and season again if necessary. It might well need more salt, depending on your stock. Cover the pan and leave for 3 minutes.
To serve, spoon the risotto into wide bowls, adding a blob more mascarpone to each one. Scatter the top with a little more grated pecorino, then sprinkle with chopped chives and grate over a little lemon zest. Grind a bit more pepper on top and serve.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book is Good Things to Eat.
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