Food: gingery risotto with roast tomato and celery

I get an Abel & Cole vegetable delivery box and always have loads of celery in it that I never …

RISOTTO croppedI get an Abel & Cole vegetable delivery box and always have loads of celery in it that I never know what to do with.

In last week’s box there was a recipe card for ‘veg box risotto’ which inspired me – it had recipes for various combinations. However, none of the suggested recipes quite worked with what I had in the fridge and cupboard. So I adapted the recipe for ‘tomato and ginger’ risotto, which sounded lovely and used miso broth instead of stock; that recipe also skipped the traditional grating-in of something like Parmesan for a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds and coriander leaves.

My adaptation got rid of the glut of celery in the veg drawer; put the cheese back in (but it’d work without too), added another – typically – risotto staple, wine, and got topped with a zingy home-made pesto and a squeeze of lemon over the lot. “That is the best pesto I have ever eaten,” my dinner companion said. And I thought the risotto was pretty good too – the ginger and lemon really cut through the heavy gloop of risotto-ness that can be a bit overwhelming.

So here’s how it went:

Serves 4-ish

For the risotto
A punnet of cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
A whole packet of celery, cut into small pieces (and don’t throw away the leaves – they can go in the pesto, below)
200g of risotto rice
A small glass of white wine
Vegetable stock
A good-sized thumb of ginger, peeled and finely grated
Lots of black pepper, plus salt to taste
A knob of butter

For the pesto
A big bunch of fresh coriander, stalks and all, washed
Two fat cloves of garlic
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Xx g of pine nuts (or try other nuts – unsalted cashews or peanuts could be good)
The celery leaves from above
Olive oil to lubricate
Good quality salt to taste

How to make it
Roast the celery in a low to medium oven, depending on how much of a hurry you are in (I put mine on 100F (???C?) and went to the pub for half an hour). When it has begun to shrink, throw in the tomatoes and continue roasting until they are gooey and the celery is even smaller and turning gold at the edges.

Towards the end of this process, gently fry the onion until it is translucent; now add the roasted celery, the rice and the wine and let it bubble. Generously grind in some black pepper.

When the wine has all but evaporated add your first ladle of stock and turn down to simmer. As this disappears (around 10 minutes later), add the next ladle. And keep going until all the stock is gone.

While this is happening, whizz up your pesto. (You’ll need some kind of food processor or blender for this bit.) Throw in all the ingredients except the salt and simply blitz the lot, adjusting the amount of oil to get the consistency right. Taste it and if you fancy it being more garlicky or more lemony – now’s the time to tweak. And add salt to taste – it’s best to add at the end as the cheese is very salty already, and it is easy to over-season.

Leave that to one side and go back to your risotto. When it is all cooked, stir through the butter, your finely grated ginger and the roasted tomatoes.

Serve with a dollop of pesto atop each portion, a light scattering of Parmesan shavings (or finely grated is fine, just not on the big grater holes). Offer a further grinding of pepper and a wedge of lemon to squeeze over it all.

Words and image: Kate Burt

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