It’s not Rocket Science

I was watching a British chef on television this week enthusing about risotto; in fact he was making so much noise about it’s preparation that you’d think he was solving complex equations rather than making a simple Italian rice dish. I turned off the TV and went shopping for some ingredients to make my own and so here’s my recipe for pancetta and asparagus risotto with none of the bells and whistles. For this recipe which serves 4 people, you’ll need:

1 red onion. 500g Arborio rice*. 500g asparagus. 100g soft cheese. 100g cubed pancetta. 400 ml vegetable stock and 2 garlic cloves. You’ll need salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon to season. A glass of white wine and my special asparagus stock.

To make my asparagus stock for extra flavour, Snap off the bottom inch or so of the asparagus using your fingers; the stems will naturally break where the tough woody part ends and the tender stem begins, then cut the green tip from the woody stem and add to 600 ml of boiling water. Let the asparagus cook until the water has reduced by half and the stems are so soft they can be crushed between a finger and thumb. Add to a blender and whizz up into a green liquid.

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Now you’re ready to make the risotto. Chop the onion roughly, no need to create equal sided cubes as years ago I was told by an Italian restaurant owner that risotto should be rustic and comforting. Flash fry the onion and pancetta in a little olive oil (not extra virgin) for 3 or 4 minutes and then put to one side. To the pan add some olive oil and when hot add the rice and the 2 whole garlic cloves, stir the rice until it’s got a coating of oil then add the white wine and stir again before removing and discarding the garlic cloves as we just want a hint of its flavour. Add the pancetta and onion followed by the 300 ml of asparagus broth; don’t go in for all of this a ladle full at a time nonsense, just pour it in and keep the rice moving as it starts to cook.

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When the rice has absorbed the liquid turn the pan on the hob 180 degrees; this stops the rice sticking and burning in one spot of the pan. Add half of the vegetable stock and continue stirring, add salt and pepper to season and repeat when the liquid has been once more absorbed. Once the rice is cooked and the liquid absorbed take it off the heat and add the soft cheese and place a lid or a plate over the pan as it melts into the rice.

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I use stracchino, a young cow’s milk cheese also know as crescenza, if you don’t want to add cheese simply substitute it for 50g of unsalted butter. Once it’s melted I give the pot one final stir and a squeeze of lemon juice and it’s ready to serve up.

I had one lonely slice of ham languishing in my fridge so I ripped it up and tossed this into the pot alongside the onion and pancetta rather than waste it. If you have a few left-over mushrooms you could add these if you like, in fact anything can be added to a risotto to save waste.

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* If you prefer your risotto made with either Roma or Carnaroli rice this is okay, I use Arborio as that’s my personal preference.

There you have it, una ricetta semplice (a simple recipe) for risotto without all the fussing and faffing of a television chef.

Signs Italy

As you know I’ve neglected my blog due to my heavy workload, but I have been collecting odd signs to show you, and this post is some of the ones I’ve spotted here in Italy.

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The first one made me chuckle as it advertises a special service from Luca. I’m not sure what that service could be.

 

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This one translates as, house of cheese. Maybe not as appealing as the gingerbread house, so I can’t see Hansel and Gretel dropping by soon.

 

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This one is so clever. Here the shop owners have substituted the Italian word for shoe, scarpe into the well-known Latin aphorism carpe diem, that’s usually translated as, seize the day.

 

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This one found in the town of Orsogna is just odd. I’m assuming it’s meant to tell passers by that the hair salon caters for all members of the family.

 

 

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My final one is my favourite. It’s stuck up on the wall of a bar in the town of Palombaro, and clearly states that Ping Pong is €2 an hour. Ask yourselves, is Ping Pong a diminutive lady who’s travelled to Italy from Thailand, and if so, what do you get for your two euro that lasts an hour?

Road Closed

The road up to our house runs in a crescent shape from the main road at Guarenna  down to the road to Selva Piana. The main section of road up to our hamlet of Guarenna Vecchia was pitted with potholes until last Christmas time when repairs were made to it. The section down to Merosci and Selva Piana is a single, serpentine track, that produces the occasional stand-off when two cars meet.

100_6344The recent storms have created havoc with our road, on Saturday so intense was the rain that it caused damage to the road, all of the recent repairs were washed down towards Guarenna, causing more damage as the debris tumbled downhill. Add to this the mud slide that occurred and we have on Sunday morning a road that’s impassable. Now it being a Sunday doesn’t really pose a problem, but Monday morning the school bus will be heading this way and should it manage to navigate through the debris and newly opened potholes; some the size of a Fiat 500, it’ll never get through the mudslide.

At lunchtime, I’m enjoying a glass of red with my focaccia and wedge of quartirolio (a delicious feta style chees from Lombaria) when I hear an engine revving furiously. I investigate the noise and looking down the lane I see a car sat in the middle of the mud, wheels spinning, sending mud up into the air behind it. I shake my head, wondering who would be daft enough to attempt to drive through the brown lake and go back to my cheese and wine.

Later a 4×4 rolls up and makes a track through the mud and then as it passes, it deposits the brown gunk stuck to its wheels just outside my house. Now this track is taken advantage of by the teenager down the lane, as he can now sail through the mud on his Vespa navigating his way through the tyre tracks. Throughout the day several more cars venture up the lane, but all abandon their endeavours and turn back.

Wednesday comes and we enjoy an afternoon with friends at Lido Le Morge, (it was even warm enough for a quick swim in the Adriatic) and when we return there are warning signs and a 10km sign in place at the bottom of the lane. It looks like work may begin to repair the damage, but this being Italy, that may be piano,piano – who can guess when. Oh me of little faith.

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Thursday morning arrives and with it the tractors to move the mud, and a road closed sign, who knows, maybe they’ll repair it once again. Only time will tell.

Friday morning update: Just had a trip down the lane and the potholes have been filled in, I wonder if the one’s back home in the UK have?