I'd better warn you now. I use silverbeet and spinach interchangeably. More specifically, i use silverbeet in place of spinach. If a recipe calls for spinach, i'll head out to the garden and pick silverbeet. I can grow silverbeet, and always have lots in the garden. Spinach, on the other hand, is a fickle crop that bolts as soon as summer appears. Leafy greens are best picked fresh and used, in my opinion. And i live 30km from the nearest town. So if i have a recipe that calls for spinach, i'm not going to go out and buy some, i'm going to use my best available option. Silverbeet.
Anyway, Tuesday was a cool and dreary day, I had plenty of silverbeet (and rocket) in the garden, and cherry tomatoes in the glasshouse that needed using, so it seemed the perfect time to turn to one of my favourite risotto recipes. I love making risotto, and i have a wonderful book by Maxine Clarke, titled, simply, 'Risotto'. I'll be giving you many of her recipes i'm sure - the book has a wonderful vegetable section, and i have tried most of them.
Today's recipe is 'Spinach Risotto with Rocket and Roasted Tomatoes'. It is not strictly vegetarian, as it contains anchovies. This was a recipe that taught me the value of an anchovy for adding subtle flavour. As Maxine writes in her introduction to the recipe, "Even if you hate anchovies, don't leave them out. They will dissolve into nothing, but add a salty, savoury flavour to the heart of the risotto" She also suggests that if you are vegetarian you can add a dash of soy sauce to the stock in place of the anchovies.
Maxine likes using unsalted butter, but i just use regular butter. I can't see the point of unsalted butter if the recipe calls for salt later on. If you have no rocket available, watercress makes a good alternative, being similarly peppery. The quantities given serve 4. I halve the risotto rice and liquid quantities for Bill and myself, but i never measure the veges - i just use as many cherry tomatoes as i have available, and put in loads of silverbeet, as i do like my vegetables!
SPINACH RISOTTO with ROCKET and ROASTED TOMATOES
From Maxine Clark's 'Risotto'
about 1.5 litres hot vegetable stock
1 onion, finely chopped
2 anchovy fillets
400g risotto rice
150ml dry white wine
400g cherry tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
200g young fresh spinach (or silverbeet) leaves, washed and drained
50g fresh rocket leaves (or watercress)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
Put the tomatoes in a roasting tin and sprinkle with olive oil. Mix well to coat, then season with salt and pepper. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees C for about 20 minutes or until slightly collapsed with the skins beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
While the tomatoes are cooking, put the stock in a saucepan and keep at a gently simmer. Melt half the butter in a large, heavy frypan and add the onion and anchovy. Cook gently for 10 minutes until soft, golden and translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir until well coated with the butter and heated through. Pour in the wine and boil hard to reduce until it has almost disappeared.
Begin adding the stock, a large ladle at a time, stirring gently until each ladleful has been almost absorbed into the rice. The risotto should be kept at a bare simmer throughout cooking, so don't let the rice dry out - add more stock as necessary. Continue until the rice is creamy and tender, but the grains are still firm (this should take about 20 minutes, depending on the type of rice used - check the packet instructions). Just before the risotto is cooked, stir in the spinach/silverbeet and rocket. Taste and season well with salt and pepper and beat in the remaining butter and the Parmesan. You may like to add a little more hot stock to the risotto at this stage to loosen it.
Cover and let rest for a couple of minutes so the risotto can relax, the cheese melt and the greens wilt. Fold in the tomatoes and their juices and then serve immediately