This is like a Waldorf salad! The combo of strong cheese with apples and walnuts just works. If you can get hold of quality gorgonzola, please do – the sweetness of the apples really offsets it. I’ve used marjoram here, but thyme works just as well.
- 1 litre/1 3/4 pints vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 to 5 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 600g/1 lb 6 ox risotto rice
- 250 ml/ 9 fl oz vermouth or dry white wine
- 700ml/1 ¼ pints hot vegetable or chicken stock
- 100g/3 ½ oz butter
- 1–2 small handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus a block for grating
- 200g/7oz gorgonzola cheese, diced
- 100g/3 1/2 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
- 2 crunchy eating apples, cored, halved, and finely chopped,
- tossed in lemon juice
- A small bunch of fresh marjoram, leaves picked and chopped
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- A handful of walnuts
- Extra virgin olive oil
Stage 1: Have a large oiled tray to hand. Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Put the olive oil and butter in a separate large pan, add the onion and celery and cook very gently for about 15 minutes, without coloring, until soft. Add the rice (it will sizzle!) and turn up the heat. Don't let the rice or veg catch on the bottom of the pan, so keep it moving.
Stage 2: Quickly pour in the vermouth or wine. You will smell the alcohol immediately, so keep stirring all the time until it has evaporated, leaving the rice with a lovely perfume.
Stage 3: Add the stock to the rice a ladle at a time, stirring and waiting until it has been fully absorbed before adding the next. Turn the heat down to low so the rice doesn't cook too quickly, otherwise the outside of each grain will be stodgy and the inside hard and nutty (you don't want to cook it too slowly either, or it will turn into rice pudding!), and continue to add ladlefuls of stock until it has all been absorbed. This should take about 14 to 15 minutes and give you rice that is beginning to soften but is still a little al dente.
Stage 4: Tip the part-cooked rice out on to the waiting oiled tray. Spread it all out evenly, about 2.5cm/1 inch thick, on the tray and then put it somewhere cold to cool down. When the rice has lost all its heat, scrape it up carefully with a rubber spatula and store it in a tupperware container with a lid in the fridge until you're ready to use it. It will keep for a couple of days.
Apple and Walnut Risotto:
First make your basic risotto recipe, then put a large saucepan on a medium to high heat and pour in half the stock, followed by all your risotto base. Stirring all the time, gently bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until almost all the stock has been absorbed. Add the rest of the stock a ladleful at a time until the rice is cooked. You might not need all your stock. Be careful not to overcook the rice – check it throughout cooking to make sure it’s a pleasure to eat. It should hold its shape but be soft, creamy and oozy. And the overall texture should be slightly looser than you think you want it.
Turn off the heat, beat in your butter, Parmesan, gorgonzola, goat’s cheese, chopped apple and marjoram. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Put a lid on the pan and leave the risotto to rest for a minute so the cheese can really ooze into it. While you’re waiting, gently heat the walnuts in a pan. Then either take the risotto to the table and let everyone help themselves, or divide it between individual serving plates. Put a block of Parmesan on the table for grating over. Sprinkle with the walnuts and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil before tucking in.
Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, 1 handful of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon of olive oil for drizzling.