Caramelised Carrot Risotto with Rocket Pesto

September 2, 2017

Risottos have been absent from the menu for over 8 weeks now, thanks in part to the 'vegan adventure', so i think it is time they were re-instated.  It is very rare in this household that we go more than a couple of weeks without a risotto of some sort appearing on the table.  This particular risotto (once again from the wonderful 'Risotto' cookbook by Maxine Clark) is a good winter risotto. In the book the recipe calls for watercress pesto, but since watercress is currently absent from our creek, and Maxine does suggest that "rocket can be used instead of watercress with the same peppery result", i've taken the liberty of changing the name. 

At this time of winter, when it is starting to feel like spring is just around the corner, but the vege garden is largely devoid of edible products, i am always happy to encounter the lush growth of self-sown rocket around my compost bins.  I love it when edible plants sprout in un-planned places, so i leave them to seed and come again.  Any food that is completely effort-free and costs nothing is a welcome bonus. I picked a big bunch of rocket for last night's meal, but i did not make rocket pesto with it.  Although i hate wastage, and often turn end-of season basil and coriander into pesto, I have a bad habit of squirreling small containers of it (as well as various other items) into my freezer and forgetting about them.  Lately i've been making a concerted effort to use said small containers of food, in preparation for another season of squirreling.  So when i came across a wee pottle of basil pesto deep in the freezer (i'm not going to tell you what year it was made), i decided this meal was a good way to use it up.  I can tell you now that freshly made rocket or watercress pesto is a much better addition to the meal than old basil pesto - or even fresh basil pesto - as the peppery flavour really adds to the dish. But if, like me, you have some less peppery pesto that needs to be used you could do what i did, and add chopped fresh rocket or watercress to the dish just prior to serving.

A final note - if you want to make the watercress version of this pesto, you need to be aware of the risk of liver fluke from watercress that is gathered anywhere near where livestock graze.  It can cause serious health issues, so if in any doubt, stick to the rocket version.


Caramelised Carrot Risotto with Rocket Pesto

From Maxine Clark's 'Risotto' cook book

Serves 4


500 g carrots, peeled then cut into chunky rounds or batons

4 tablespoons olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper



50 g  rocket (or watercress) leaves, without stalks, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan 

25 g hazelnuts (or walnuts)

90 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for covering

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper



about 1.5 litres hot vegetable stock or light chicken stock

125 g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

400 g risotto rice

150 ml dry white wine

75 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Toss the carrots in the olive oil, spread in a roasting tin and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celcius for 20 - 30 minutes, turning occasionally until they begin to caremelise.

Meanwhile, to make the pesto, put the watercress, garlic, Parmesan, nuts, olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down any bits that cling to the side of the bowl. Cover with a thin layer of oil and set aside.


To make the risotto, put the stock in a large saucepan and keep at a gentle simmer. Melt half the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and add the onion. 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 until it has  reduced and almost disappeared. This will remove the taste of raw alcohol.


Begin adding the stock, a large ladle at a time, stirring gently after until each ladle has almost been absorbed by the rice. The risotto should be kept at a bare simmer throughout cooking, so don't let it dry out - add more stock as necessary.  Continue until the rice is tender and creamy, but the grains still firm (this should take about 20 minutes depending on the type of rice used - check the packet instructions). Stir in the carrots and pan juices. Add salt and pepper to taste and beat in the remaining butter and half the Parmesan. 


Cover and let rest for a few minutes so the risotto can relax and the cheese melt, then serve immediately. You may wish to add a little more stock just before you serve to loosen it, but don't let it wait around too long or the rice will turn mushy.  serve in warm bowls with a spoon of pesto on top and sprinkled with the remaining Parmesan.



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Hi There

I'm Marion! I love food and i love cooking using fresh, seasonal ingredients. I enjoy finding new ways to use ingredients from pantry and property, and i aim to provide you with as many delicious ways as possible to use your own produce from home and garden.

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