My lovely family and friends always buy me fab birthday presents and know me well enough to know that give me anything to do with the kitchen, food, cooking and il be a happy girl. It was a my birthday a couple of weeks ago and amongst many of my fantabulous gifts (including ice-cream maker, magi-mix, fish plate, paella pan and truffle salt) was a book called The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. The book takes different flavours and explains which foods fit into which groups and then tells the lucky reader which flavours go well together.
Upon leafing through my new book I decided that I wanted to add something more structured, challenging to my blog and so I have decided to take the advice given in the book about mixing flavours together and apply them to classic recipes to see if i can make my usual dishes more exciting and flavourful. I experimented last week with cardamom but as I have yet to perfect a cardamom and *something* loaf cake I will save that post for later – the raspberry coulis i used to a marble effect last time tasted lovely but wasn’t enough to cut through the fresh, citric spice from the cardamom – I will keep trying and update you when iv succeeded.
So – today’s challenge was seafood risotto. I have managed to convert Elix from being a risotto hater to a risotto lover – her favourite is creamy bacon, mushroom and parmesan but I have also managed to force feed her beetroot and goats cheese and mascarpone and parma ham risottos both with resounding success! Seafood is a new challenge – whilst Elix enjoys prawns and squid she is not a huge clam or mussel fan and does not like to be restricted with cheese usage!
Back to business – the book mentions how mussels and clams are salty whilst prawns and scallop tend to be sweeter so it is important to both highlight these important flavours but also not over-do it by adding flavours or seasoning which could make the dish too salty or too sweet. The book lists numerous foods which go well with shellfish – some of which would not be suitable for my risotto – im sure beef goes well with shellfish (surf ‘n turf) but not in my seafood risotto! I opted to use basil as the citrus notes here can be used instead of lemon (which sometimes I find can make a dish too sour and Elix gets angry when people too freely add lemon to seafood), chilli just to cut through the sweetness and add an extra kick to the tomato base and garlic to enrich the dish. I decided on a tomato base (despite the fact that Elix made no secret if the fact she would prefer a cheesy, creamy risotto) partly because i really struggle to mix shellfish and cream (to me it just doesn’t go!) but also because i wanted to keep the dish refreshing and light. I was very pleased with the end result, the salty notes of the mussels paired well with the chilli and sweet tomato base and the basil garnished the meal well. Elix’s conclusion was “delicious, spiniscious, bidicious” infer from this what you will – I’ll add that she ate every mouthful within minutes and cleared her plate completely!
So – here is my recipe:
2 shallots chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
200g Risotto/Arborio Rice
1 tin Chopped Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
a sprinkle of Chilli Flakes
Seafood – i used squid, prawns, mussels and clams
a handful of peas
a handful of chopped basil
To start I fried the onion and garlic in olive oil and some butter, once softened I added the rice. When the rice has turned translucent I add the tomatoes. I then sprinkle over the chilli flakes and season to taste with salt and pepper. I gradually add the stock in to soak into the rice and each time the pan becomes a little dry, add more stock until the rice is soft but keeps a bite to it. Throw in the peas and the seafood and finally scatter the basil on top and stir through. The final meal was much drier than when i have made a creamy risotto before but the mixture remains moist but not soggy and the peas keep a bite to them so the sweet inside bursts as you bite. Even if i do say so myself, when eating it I felt as though I was in a restaurant in the Mediterranean, by the sea with a warm breeze and a chilled glass of white wine – we actually were in our lounge in Tooting as the weather outside turns from Summer sunshine to Autumn breezes and showers.