Risotto all’uva fragola (Fragola Grape Risotto)
Fragola grapes grace many a terrace in Bucharest and I’ve always been fascinated with their slightly “pear dropsy” strawberry aroma and taste. I don’t much care for eating them as they are because the skins are really thick and tough but when put through a mouli (not a food processor as the blades tend to pulverise the pips creating way too much bitterness and tannin) the resulting pulpy sauce makes magical sorbets, jelly and a sauce that works wonderfully over lemon ice cream. The resulting creations all have a very deep purple hue (although there is nothing heavy and metallic about them) So this time I wanted to have a go at the risotto. Essentially this is a regular white risotto where you use the grape pulp/liquid in place of most of the stock.
Ingredients (for 4)
320g risotto rice such as arborio or carnaroli. at a pinch if you have a craving for risotto and no posh Italian grains in the cupboard pudding rice will do
1 medium onion diced
1 clove of garlic smushed
1 litre of liquid which in this case should be approx 500ml of the grape pulp/liquid and approx 400ml of stock and 100ml vermouth or wine. Use approx 1kg grapes to obtain the liquid but the final quantity will depend on the grapes. If you are vegetarian use a veggie stock but personally I like a chicken stock.
Butter, olive oil, approx 100g parmesan, salt & pepper, good quality dried thyme or fresh
Put the stock/grape pulp liquid in a saucepan and heat very gently – you dont want a jammy or “cooked” grape flavour in the risotto
Put a small knob of butter and a glug of olive oil in a saucepan with a heavy base – if you have a Le Creuset use it for risotto. Try and have a “wedge” shaped wooden spoon/ spatula as you want to be moving the rice around and having a clean saucepan bottom all the time. Fry the onion until translucent and add the garlic and rice and swirl around the pan for a couple of minutes taking care not to brown the onion.
Tip in the vermouth/wine and enjoy the “whoosh” and associated alcohol vapours! Give a good stir but this will probably absorb instantaneously. Then start adding the stock/grape mix and stirring slowly. This is quite hypnotic and generally much helped by having a glass of wine in your hand too. Add a teaspoon or so of the dried thyme at this stage.
Keep adding the liquid slowly as the rice absorbs it until it is just done – keep testing grains between your teeth until the rice is done. It should be firm but not uncooked in the middle of the grain (that will end in tummy ache!). At this point test for seasoning and add salt and pepper according to your own taste.
At this point you need to add the parmesan, maybe a little knob of butter and take the risotto off the heat and just stir gently and then leave the risotto for the all important relaxation stage (risotto is just soooo Italian). This is to allow the parmesan to melt gently and create a creaminess and depth of flavour.
This risotto works really well with crispy bacon or goat’s cheese – anything that offsets the inherent fruitiness of the risotto. Try it!