This week’s oven-baked risotto came about because of the snow. I woke up this morning at 7:15 all of a fluster as I do every time my alarm rings. It’s a soothing alarm tone, one with bells and bird song, it’s very meditative rather an a literal alarm which rings like a screaming siren, but still I felt all hot and flustered. I wondered if Gaylord had left the heating on by mistake. Then I eventually slipped from this warm cocoon and crept to the living room which is all cold glass and white tiles. Through the big windows, I could see it was snowing.
For the rest of the morning, as I ran my errands and went to appointments in the Toulouse town centre, my fingers puffing up like grapes with cold, little half-hearted snowflakes fell around me. It kind of put last week’s ‘summer’ picnic into perspective. They don’t tell you on the south of France brochure that it’s cold in winter.
Never before had home called me back so vehemently. I raced to the metro station, eager to leave the grey and frigid city, a leek and a baguette sticking out of my bag in what felt like a very French manner, and once safely home, I turned on the oven to make risotto with wine and parmesan. And to warm my hands.
So while Gaylord readied himself for work, and the repair guy clattered around with ladder to diagnose the problem with our bedroom-window shutters that won’t open (not that he was actually here to fix them today, oh no, that would be far too convenient and organised for France, no today, he was going to report the issue and then the landlady will work out if it’s worth her money to repair it), I installed myself in the kitchen and as usual, made a mess.
I sautéed onions in olive oil and added the white part of that leek I bought earlier, then cooked them until sweet. I shredded thyme off its stalk and chiffonaded sage into wispy thin strips, then zested lemon and grated parmesan which has the tendency to go everywhere, doesn’t it. With all the rice, herbs, wine and leek bubbling away in the casserole dish, I bundled it safely into the oven. This is a lazy person’s risotto.
What is oven-baked risotto?
Oven-baked risotto isn’t really a risotto. Not in the classic sense of the word. It’s not a dish that needs constant surveillance as though it is an unruly child. Did you know that risottos traditionally require a wooden spoon with a hole in the centre to be made properly? My parents had one in their utensil pot and I could never fathom what this spoon could be used for – surely it was useless considering the big hole in the middle? I later found out it was a risotto spoon, and that hole created two currents as you stir the rice through the liquid, thereby resulting in a creamier risotto.
With this risotto, you can go off and do something else for 20 minutes. Consider the oven a nursery or nanny. And that oven-nanny takes excellent care – out comes a silky, creamy risotto which, hey, may have wanted a risotto spoon, don’t we all, but parmesan adds to the creaminess. Best of all, the leeks are sweet and the rice still has a bit of a bite. All you need is a fork and you can dig in after very little hard work on your part. Did I say this recipe is perfect if you’re lazy?
I made this easy-peasy lunch twice in a week. Each time, I dressed it up a little with different flavours: the other day it was pancetta and peas, today there was some thyme, lemon and pine nuts in there. At the base though there’s always a trusty leek and a sprinkling of the warmest herb, sage. It just tastes of winter.
And of course, wine and parmesan and, as it’s snowing after all, I feel perfectly within my right to forget that anti-inflammatory diet and warm my soul. With these two flavour profiles as a base, you can essentially wing this stupidly easy, lazy, cold-day, comforting oven-baked risotto, and forget the snow outside.
Oven-Baked Risotto with Leeks, Sage and Parmesan
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion
- ½ leek the white part
- 1 clove of garlic
- 175 g risotto rice
- 500 ml vegetable stock
- 75 ml white wine
- 2 tsp chopped sage
- 2 tbsp parmesan
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional additions for your risotto:
- 150 g pancetta lardons fry with the onion at the beginning
- 75 g frozen peas add with the parmesan when there is 15 minutes of cooking left
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves add along with the sage and rice
- 15 g pine nuts add with the parmesan when there is 15 minutes of cooking left, and for garnish
- ¼ tsp lemon zest add with the sage and rice
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/340°F.
- Finely chop the onion. Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish (one that can go in the oven) and once hot, add the onion and fry gently for a couple of minutes.
- Slice the white part of the leek and rinse to remove any grit from the layers. Add the slices to the pan, stir to combine with the onions and season with salt. Lower the heat and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until soft and sweetened. Crush the garlic and stir into the leeks and onions.
- Tip in the rice and coat all the grains in the hot oil. Pour in the wine, stock and sage as well as some seasoning. Stir everything to combine and bring to the boil. Cover the risotto with a lid and slide the pan into the oven – cook for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the risotto from the oven and remove the lid. Stir the rice which will be almost cooked; there will be a little bit of liquid in the pan. Add the parmesan and some seasoning, stir again, then return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
- When the time is up, let the pan of risotto rest on the counter for 5 minutes or so to let the mixture amalgamate. Stir before serving, add a little lemon juice, then garnish with more parmesan and some herbs.